No 119 JULY 2011

Oman’s Best Automotive Resource

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YOU’VE WAITED ALL THESE YEARS AND IT’S FINALLY HERE!
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Visit us online at www.automanweb.com

editor-in-chief
Mohammad Al taie

Fix it before it breaks
This month Automan takes an in-depth look at 12 cars that share one particular strength. All the cars in the dozen highlighted under the Automan Select banner are stalwarts that have either lasted for many decades or have come into the scene a few years back and are points in their evolution that are quite disparate. The point that Automan Select tries to make is also distinct from our approach in the Car of the Year. Our Car of the Year is based on comparing the best cars nominated under a range of segments – ranging from entry level all the way up to the best luxury or performance vehicles. Under the Automan Select banner, we aren’t distinguishing models into any categories or segments. What we are looking for in this edition of Automan Select is improvement brought about in the models that have replaced their forebears in the past year. In some of these cases, the model in question has undergone a complete platform revolution – like Ford’s Explorer, shirking the ladder frame and body configuration to
raj@alroya.net

AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG Po Box: 343, Postal code 118 Al harthy complex Sultanate of oman email: automan@alroya.net Website: www.automanweb.com editorial office: tel: +968 24479888 extn 300, fax: +968 24479889 circulation office: tel: +968 2456 2360, fax: +968 2456 2194 PUBLiSher hatim Al taie editor & GM raj Warrior

hatim@alroya.net

become a softer crossover. Or the Jaguar XJ which has eschewed the tradition that kept it from evolving for years to a car that is so ultra-modern that you are surprised that it isn’t from one of the German manufacturers. These dozen cars all share one characteristic – they tell you that the manufacturers of these models are listening to the customer and the customer’s demands. What does the modern car buyer want that is substantially different from car buyers through the years? Nothing. What is changing is the readiness of manufacturers to listen. The very concept of a model year change of trim, lights or features was brought about by manufacturers who thought that customers were happy with the frills. Today the buyer is communicating with his wallet – he wants style, latest technology, safety and most of all the assurance that he is buying a car that is far more than a device that only gets him from A to B. The message that other manufacturers need to get is that you have to listen to your buyer - stop thinking that they will buy the same old car packed as a new offering. In addition this month we also look at the new A6 and new Durango – both of which qualify for the tag of most improved model as well as carry an interview with Peter Schreyer, KIA’s head of design. It isn’t often that we meet such people in Oman – usually this is associated with a major product launch. In this case we butted in on a personal visit – but the pleasant results are presented in our pages this month.

execUtive editor chandan B Mallik chandan@alroya.net deSiGn Sawsan Al Muharbi

sawsan@alroya.info

heAd of MArketinG Maged Aziz maged@alroya.net circULAtion books@alroya.net finAnce & AdMin Abraham daniel daniel@alroya.net Printer ruwi Modern Printers LLc tel: +968 2479 4167, 2479 8157 fax: +968 2470 0545

© 2011 All editorial content of Automan in the magazine and its website is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the management of AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG Automan accepts unsolicited exclusive editorial material, but reserves the right to publish any such material. once published, the copyright for any such material will vest with AL roYA PreSS & PUBLiShinG

in this issue
AUTOMAN SELECT
The original Durango was a fuel thirsty body-on-frame truck that had worse handling and fuel economy than the larger Chevy Suburban with less space inside than the Tahoe. The new 2011 Durango launched a few weeks ago changes all. for better gas mileage when cruising on the highway. Mercedes’ ride and Hemi power? That’s a tough-tobeat combination.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

2011: MOST IMPROVED CARS
Ratings

FIRST DRIVE
Ratings

Dodge Durango

Also revealed at the November 2010 LA Auto Show, the refreshed for 2011 Charger enters evolutionary territory with an all-new sheetmetal, quality and improved interiors. It also opens a new chapter in unadulterated 2+2 muscle cars.

Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Dodge Charger

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From Oman and the region From around the world
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Body type: What’s in? what’s out?

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What’s in?
Styling Revealed at the at the 2010 LA Auto Show, the completely redesigned new arrival looks like a real Dodge — unmistakably tough and muscular. Engineering The new car is built on a new crossover SUV unibody chassis [also shared with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and R-Class] Powertrain options Entry level models get the company’s allnew 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine. The latest version of the reworked Hemi V8, with seamless cylinder deactivation for optimizing fuel economy is also offered. Full time AWD is available in the V6, while low range can be locked in the V8s [also with limited slip diff locks]. Interiors & features Dodge’s President and CEO Ralph Gilles’ team has transformed this bare utility vehicle into a luxurious fashion statement. The top spec Citadel model sports a pleasant two-tone leather bound cabin that combines some of the features and flexibility of a minivan with a less upright seating and a host of convenience features. Handling & performance By class benchmarks the Durango has a refined ride and balanced performance and by previous Durango standards it’s beyond comparison. Key competitors VW Touareg, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, BMW X5, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Veracruz, Kia Sorento, Subaru Tribeca, Mazda CX-9, and Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Infiniti FX and Lexus RX330.

what’s out?
Chrysler’s second-generation rear-wheel-drive E-segment architecture, to achieve very high structural stiffness and torsional strength, which contributes to tighter handling and safety. Powertrain options The regular range includes the 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar and larger V8 Hemi engines with Eco drive modes. Performance R/T versions are also offered. Interiors & features More luxurious now with many new comfort and convenience features. Bespoke programme also available for trims including leather and wood. Handling & performance As a pure and modern pony car, it’s difficult to fault the on road prowess and handling of this car even with the V6. Key competitors Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro.

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Styling The raw and aggressive face has now become refined and businesslike without losing the hallmark and signature crosshair grill. The rear end with its full-width LED taillamp connects to the 70s styling. Engineering The new car’s foundation is an all-new chassis and suspension package mated to efficient powertrains. The new chassis uses advanced steels, nylon composites with

Automan’s take Near the top in many departments including pricing and variants that SUV punters are looking at these days.

Automan’s take a stylish and highly entertaining Charger with undiluted performance and a wide range to appeal the appetite of muscle cars.
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TESTED

Ford has managed a resurgence on the back of product revamp. The new Fusion is one of these models taking on established competition in the C-D segment.
Author Raj Warrior Photographs Raj Warrior

braNdwatch

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FACE TO FACE

DESIGNS OF A MASTER
KIA’s design chief Peter Schreyer was in Oman recently. Raj Warrior met him and got an opportunity to grill him on his design direction.

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hen you read the man’s biography you realise how much the German design ethos are part of the man. After studying industrial design from the Munich University of Applied Sciences, he won an Audi scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. After that he joined Audi and rose through the company to become the chief designer. Post 2002 till 2005 he was with Volkswagen in the same capacity and then Head of Advanced Design for the VW group. Two cars he was responsible for are the original Audi TT and the re-birthed VW Beetle. He moved to KIA in 2006 and he has been a driving force of the new look of the brand since then. He is a winner of the Red Dot Award. The perfect person to partner with KIA’s thrust on design, Schreyer oversees operations at KIA’s design centres in Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Namyang in Korea. Schreyer admits to a fascination with studying people as they use cars, especially brands he is associated with. He looks in cars while at traffic lights and sees the person driving it and what emotions he projects.

As an outsider brought in to develop a clear identity for the KIA brand, how much of resistance have you faced from within the organisation to imbibing new ideas like a global identity as opposed to the different model for different market approach? I haven’t faced any resistance from the organisation. I think this is what they expected when they brought me in. They have supported me throughout. The only thing is that we still do different models for different markets. But they all look like KIAs so there is one language, the style is the same only sometimes in different markets there is a requirement for different types of cars – for example the US market is one for sedans and SUVs and the European market is one for 5-door. In a market like Korea or even here you couldn’t sell a 5-door. In Europe they want 5-doors and wagons. So this way we need to make a kind of a difference in regions, but again, not from a style point of view. A BMW looks like a BMW everywhere in the world and why not. This is what I try to build up – a strong identity. Once you have a strong identity and a stronger image you can experiment, but you can get a stronger image only by having one recognisable identity. You also mentioned that you had to create the new look and identity pretty rapidly. Would that make owners of older look KIAs feel like they had lost out by not waiting for the newer model? I would hope they buy new KIAs. (laughs) How much importance do exterior and interior design get separately under your watch? Do tastes of different regions impact different interiors? First of all, the exterior and the interior are of equal importance. When you see a car on the street or the parking you note that it is attractive and that may bring you to the dealer’s showroom to see what it is about? When you open the door and sit inside you don’t want to be disappointed, you want to feel that this a great interior too. I always look at a car as a holistic product, not as the exterior and interior. Everything is designed as a whole and should be done in such a way that exterior and interior fit together as one

car. As for the tastes of different regions – it isn’t so much the style as it is the materials. Another aspect is the pricing. In some regions they don’t want to pay a premium – selling the cars at a cheaper price. In that case we can’t use leather or soft touch materials. In other regions the same models are positioned for more affluent buyers. In those cases they want soft-touch materials, navigation and the best you can get in leather and everything. In those cases we can charge a little more money and the buyers are willing to pay it. In Europe buyers want a harder suspension, while in the US they want a softer suspension and cup-holders. You are constantly looking at popular culture for inputs in car design. But at some levels you must find yourself constrained by the technology that is available. What are the new boundaries you are facing in terms of possibilities in car design? I think of the new boundaries as new possibilities. One of the new possibilities can be found in alternative drivetrains, like using electric motors and hybrids. This should change the scenery quite a bit. The way the oil prices are moving, in countries that don’t have the oil, ways need to be found how to make the electricity. It will take time but these are challenges. Just as are safety rules. As you mentioned there are new ways to use lighting – using which we can make a lot of improvements. One way is by using LED and light guide technologies you can make an identity. When you see a car in the night you can instantly recognise it. The Audis were very well defined like that. Using light you can make the car have a face with the lights playing the role of the eyes. Also, you can use adaptive headlight technologies to improve safety, having the light swivel as you go round corners. We already have the ability to program a car to automatically dip its lights on sensing an oncoming car. There are a lot of possibilities. I believe that it is the new technologies and the new challenges that bring design forward. Design does not advance on its own just by changing a line or some colour. You need more than that – a new technology to somehow progress design.

iNterview

Hyundai not interested in Opel

Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors Design Boss

autoMaNselect

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2012 Audi A6

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PREVIEW

FIRST DRIVE

Aston Martin has teamed up with Italian design house Zagato one again to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the DB4 GT Zagato with an interesting V12 Vantage-based concept endurance racer
Author Chandan B Mallik

SPORTING NATURE INCLUDED
Aston M a r t i n ’ s relationship with Zagato goes back to 1961 when the duo worked on the first DB4GT Zagato. Between 1986 and 2003, several other models based on V8 Vantage, and DB7 were produced [see box below]. For 2011, the collaboration has been renewed once again and the fruit of the effort is ready to race endurance racer based on the mechanicals of the current V12 Vantage. However, Aston has its own in-house design set-up and rationale behind the joint venture has more to do with intensity than anything else. “Fifty years ago, Italian design houses were widely seen as leading the way with new designs but now and supported by our independency, Aston Martin has its own in-house design ability so this new venture with Zagato is more collaborative than it perhaps would have been in the past,” said Dr Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin. Considering the time period from sketch to actual conceptualization, it has taken

KIA’s major overhaul of the Sportage for MY 2011 brought us a product that will be remembered as being at a crossroads of time and space – the right place at the right time. Now with the 2012 line-up available, we look at the car’s appeal again.
Author Raj Warrior Photographs Raj Warrior

First drive tested

2011 Volkswagen Jetta 40 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser 5.7 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel 2011 Kia Sportage 2011 Ford Fusion
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Zagato is back!

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s always, the Villa D’Este concours in Italy was the place to be last month if you’re a diehard classic car aficionado. This year, besides the usual array of exhibited and paraded beauties, was a celebration of sorts for Gaydon, UK-based Aston Martin. Aston Martin
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unveiled its stunning new endurance racer concept which it has co-designed with Milan-based design house Zagato, on the shores of Lake Como as tribute to the badge which is celebrating the 50th anniversary year of the iconic DB4GT Zagato in 2011.
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ou have seen the sleek lines pass you on the road. In the months since the Sportage hit the ground running with a new look and some phenomenal packaging, KIA has had a hard time – in fulfilling the demand for the crossover that is – and buyers are lapping up the new direction put in place in terms of product design, build quality, feature packaging and performance. The Sportage is now in its third generation and almost as a complete surprise the 2012 MY version of the car is in town to replace the 2011. We picked up a base version of the car to test what makes it such an appealing buy for many erstwhile sedan owners. At around the same time we had the honour of meeting KIA’s head of design Peter Schreyer who was in Oman on a private visit. The current Sportage moves the model upwards in its positioning in the crossover segment, helped in a great measure by the design improvements, not just over the previous generation but also when compared to competitors. The basis of this move was because of

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a substantial shift in model preferences from buyers around the world. More than 50% of all SUV category sales in markets like Europe and China are of crossovers, while hardcore SUVs are largely favoured still in USA and the Middle East. The idea of taking a car-based platform and extending it as a crossover is not new. However the previous gen Sportage proved the concept for KIA and the new one has put the seal of excellence on how to do a good job of it. At 4.44 metres in length the car belies its growth. Visually the overhangs have got shortened, adding the wheels-in-the-corner attitude that Schreyer’s design brings with it. Yes the sports car like profile does a lot for it too. The interiors are the next best thing to happen to the car. From a neatly framed gearshift lever (encircled in a circular boss) and a forward biased centre console complete with climate control, MP3 CD player and provision of USB input slots for the iPod generation the high quality plastics seem like they are a match for

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{COVER

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cover story 32
mongst the three premium German automotive brands, Audi continues with its aggressive portfolio expansion. The latest to arrive is the totally revamped midsize A6 sedan which was lavishly unveiled to the world at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. In the line-up, the premium C-segment A6 has been close to Audi’s heart and has been groomed to be a winner. In fact, the outgoing edition received a host of useful upgrades including efficient six- or eight-cylinder engines with innovative technologies cutting fuel consumption by about 15 per cent across the whole model range, suspension tweaks and new high-tech assistance and improvised new MMI with touchpad systems enabling the driver even greater control over the car. And this evidence of the high regard Audi technologies is enjoying worldwide also leads to the perennial question: how much more can you offer on a replacement model, where the outgoing model has already been improved so much? Audi is very much aware of what it has to do in view of the current global economic scenario which has severely affected the fortunes of many carmakers and hence some of the packaging in the new A6 shouldn’t surprise many. Techno-savvy Audi has focused on efficiency and craftsmanship for the incoming model inside out. It has built a lighter, more efficient sedan and began the exercise by thankfully not increasing the length of the model [which was already one of the largest vehicles in the class] but by using the A7’s underpinnings as its starting point. As a result, the wheelbase is now increased and the car is lowered at the same time. As part of the efficiency drive, Audi has employed greater use of aluminium in its construction to lighten

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Motorsports chicaNe
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Formula One, WRC, MotoGP Control freaks
Sa Su

Focus on class and efficiency
Audi has completely redesigned the A6 for the 2012 model year with an emphasis on technology and performance. Automan finds the package interesting after a date with the car on track and asphalt
Author Chandan B Mallik Photographs author and Jorge Ferrari 32

EDITORIAL

NOMINEE

AUDI A6 2011 MID-SIZE SED AN

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the whole package by 80kg. This also means that almost 20 per cent of the car is made of aluminium now. Despite some mechanical similarities with the A7, none of the external panels are the same. The incoming A6 is a clean-sheet design and has deeper character lines and mature surface treatment on its sheetmetal. At 194in long, it is marginally shorter than the A7 [both have the same 115in wheelbase] and the A6 actually is a fraction shorter than the outgoing car, but has a remarkably similar profile and design character. Actually, re-engineering the front differential enabled the front axle to move way forward, reducing the front overhang to achieve better design aesthetics. Meanwhile, Audi’s excellence in lighting technology application continues with gorgeous LED clusters front and rear. The car’s interior is where a lot of attention has been paid and has changed more than the exterior. But it’s still wonderfully familiar and it goes without saying that the overall ambience is richer, thanks in part to trim elements used on the doors, dashboard and centre console. Audi says that the car is being offered with a variety of interior trim options, including this bespoke leather, stitching and wood. We found the trim piece surrounding the front door handle was quite striking as a design element.

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! ING NC OU T THAT ANN VEN E E NG E THE LL CHA ALU WI YOU V R CA W HO OUR Y

YOUR CAR’S SEAL OF EXCELLENCE!

MORE THAN 250 MODELS, 40 BRANDS, 15 CATEGORIES AND ONLY ONE WINNER IN EACH CATEGORY!
announces the thrills and prestige of its own Car of the Year awards. With enough packed in to take you through the year and a unique format of selection, Automan’s COTY awards will reward the best models on offer in Oman in 2011 Look out in every issue of Automan till August 2011. When we test drive cars, we will not only judge each car for how good it is for you as a buyer, we will also possibly select it as our editorial nominee in one of 13 categories:

13 Categories for Reader Voting
If the car deserves the tag, we will tag it as “Editorial Nominee” for the category it best suits. Look out for this logo on each story: EDITORIAL NOMINEE NAME OF THE CAR CATEGORY We will keep a running tally of all the editorial choices till August, after which, we will allow you, the reader to select further nominees through SMS and online at our website, all the way through till our October issue. And that’s when things get really exciting! The nominees in each category will go through a selection procedure that will result in one clear winner in each category. Additionally, our editors will also give two unique awards :

01 Small Car of the Year 02 Mid-size Car of the Year 03 Large Car of the Year 04 Premium Car of the Year 05 Luxury Car of the Year 06 Hot Hatch of the Year 07 Sports Car of the Year 08 Performance Car of the Year 09 Small SUV of the Year 10 Mid-size SUV of the Year 11 Large SUV of the Year 12 Premium SUV of the Year 13 Performance SUV of the Year

14 Best debut Model in Oman 15 Editor’s choice

At a glittering, year-end ceremony, the winners of each category will be awarded the Automan ‘Car of Year Award’ in its class.
www.automanweb.com

regional news}
MINI By Goodwood

New Mercedes-BeNz Models dazzle Middle east

I
No, it’s not the name of a book, but the name of the most high-end MINI ever built. And in keeping with its air of exclusivity and lifestyle aspirations, this special one-off design edition of the threedoor MINI was unveiled at the recent Shanghai Motor Show 2011. The project was developed in close collaboration with the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars design team and overseen by Rolls-Royce interior design chief Alan Sheppard. The car’s theme transfers the unmistakable style of the British luxury car manufacturer to the equally unique MINI. The exterior and interior features specially developed for the MINI embody the inimitable style of Rolls-Royce Design and generates an interior ambience defined by stylistic harmony, masterful workmanship and classic British elegance. The British origins of the two brands, their shared belief in meeting the individual needs and desires of their customers, and the creative pooling of ideas between the various brands at BMW Group Design, provided the fuel for the collaboration between Rolls-Royce and MINI to provide the second model from the exclusive MINI Yours product line with a fascinating charisma and an incomparably high-quality ambience. This bespoke model is being showcased in the region and is available for order at the brand’d authorised retail outlets.

n a city famed for its glamorous nightlife filled with millionaires, models, socialites and celebrities, it was the Mercedes-Benz sparkling three pointed star that stole the show in Beirut last night, as the luxury automotive company launched its all new C-Class Coupé, and third generation of its most successful sports car ever - the SLK Roadster - in spectacular style. Held at SkyBar, one of the Middle East’s most fashionable nightspots, the stunning Middle East launch of the innovative and sporty new Mercedes-Benz models drew gasps from the rooftop guest list of 800 VIPs, which included Mercedes-Benz’ General Distributors, customers, and media from across the region. The C-Class Coupé enters a new market segment for Mercedes-Benz, offering a sporty compact coupé with classic proportions and a forward-looking, expressive style, and technology that includes a new generation of telematics with internet access. From the side, the new coupé beguiled revellers with its flat silhouette, powerful shoulders and narrow C-pillar in a classic three-box design. Also wowing the crowd were the C-Class Coupé’s trim parts available in a porcelain piano-lacquer look - a first in automotive engineering - complementing the car’s exclusive interior feel. The C-Class Coupé will be available in the Middle East as C 250 BlueEFFICIENCY, and C 350 BlueEFFICIENCY engine versions. A 457hp 6.3-litre C 63 AMG Coupé V8 engine version is also offered, with the option to be boosted to 487 hp with the AMG Performance package. An additional C 180 engine version will be available in the Levant. The launch of the new SLK Roadster marks the third generation of one of the most exciting and successful sports cars ever built, designed to take driving

pleasure and open-air enjoyment to a new level. It blends light-footed sportiness with stylish comfort, a striking sports-car design with total suitability for everyday use, and top performance with exemplary ecology. Fittingly launched beneath the twinkling night-sky, the SLK proudly introduced the Middle East to its world-first panoramic vario-roof with MAGIC SKY CONTROL, which switches to light or dark at the touch of a button. Three new direct injection engine powered SLK models will be available in the region. Four-cylinder engines include the 184 hp SLK 200 BlueEFFICIENCY and 204 hp SLK 250 BlueEFFICIENCY, and the 306 hp V6 engine in the SLK 350. Speaking at the event, a delighted Frank Bernthaler, Director, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz Cars, Middle East & Levant enthused: “2011 is a momentous year for Mercedes-Benz. 125 years since the invention of the automobile by our founding fathers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, we are still creating cutting edge luxury vehicles with groundbreaking designs. But this year is different. With these new models, this is the year that Mercedes-Benz stops being the car your Dad drove, and becomes the car that you drive.” Addressing the glittering audience from giant LED screens as the evening crescendoed towards the unveiling of the C-Class Coupé and SLK Roadster, Mike Belk, President and CEO, Daimler Middle East & Levant, said: “MercedesBenz cars, and especially our coupés, have become like the stars of the Middle East’s social scene. They’re confident, beautiful, desirable, fashionable, ambitious, young and successful, whilst always remembering our core values of safety, quality, reliability, comfort and efficiency. There’s definitely no missing the glint of the three pointed star either.”

BMw BeGINs retaIl operatIoNs IN Iraq

BMW Group Middle East launched its retail operations in Iraq last month. Al Uroush Automotive Trading is the official importer-retailer and the all-new after sales centre and new car showroom is located in Erbil. “The Iraqi people have an appreciation for luxury brands and the market shows strong growth potential. We have already experienced significant demand for our cars, with sales of 56 vehicle since we announced our entry into the market in January this year,” said Reiner Braun, director of sales and Marketing for BMW Group Middle East.”

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10-Jul-2011 11-Jul-2011 12-Jul-2011 13-Jul-2011 14-Jul-2011

Mall) Muscat (Al Masa l Masa Mall) Muscat (A Mall) Muscat (Al Masa uq Almerat So Almerat Souq

Salalah Souq Salalah Souq Salalah Souq Salalah Souq Salalah Souq

Al Khoud Souq Al Khoud Souq Al Khoud Souq Al Khoud Souq Al Khoud Souq

regional news}
ng eaki new s

Br

BrIdGestoNe rolls out eco-frIeNdly ecopIa
COPIA may sound a bit odd for a tyre sub brand, but Bridgestone Middle East & Africa FZE are proud to launch this ecofriendly product in the region. ECOPIA is a next-generation tyre that maintains grip even though rolling resistance is reduced. Its advanced technology delivers a high safety performance and braking is not

New 2011 audI a6 IN oMaN
Now on sale, the new sedan model from Audi is making its debut in the Middle East with two V6 engines. In the Sultanate, the prices for the A6 will start from OMR19,960 for the 2.8-litre FSI quattro model and will go up to OMR24,590 for the top end 3.0-litre TFSI Quattro variant. Both models come with five year service and three year warranty as a standard. Both models feature the new S tronic transmission and latest generation of quattro four-wheel drive. With its light body, sporty chassis and a wide array of new assistance and multimedia systems, the executive sedan features groundbreaking solutions in every area of technology.

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(l-r) Bridgestone Middle East and Africa FZE officials Akihiro Ichikawa, Technical Service Manager, Takumi Kakara, Marketing Director and Kentaro Hara, General Manager of Consumer Tyre Marketing with the new ECOPIA tyre during the Ecopia launch.

compromised at all. ECOPIA’s compound is a combination of silica with a coupling agent that compared to conventional ones reduces heat generation and energy loss; its innovative tyre shape controls stress and deformation during driving; the rib-linked blocks uniform ground contact when braking and deliver an enhanced stopping performance, even in wet conditions. “We are proud of this new kind of tyre that allows drivers to give respect to the environment,” said Shoichi Sakuma, president of Bridgestone Middle East & Africa during the launch. Comparative tests showed that ECOPIA improves fuel efficiency by 3.1per cent when compared to a Bridgestone standard tyre. ECOPIA EP100A will be available in the Middle East & Africa markets in the third quarter of this year.

JordaN hosts GMc BraNd eveNt

reGIoNal suMMer specIals
Dhofar Automotive
price of one, or half a day rental for a full day. A Toyota Yaris or Mitsubishi Lancer can be driven away for as little as Dh90 per day under this offer.

GMC hosted regional brand event for media across a number of world-renowned locations in Jordan last month. The ‘GMC Trail Jordan’ was put together to enable participants test GMC vehicles.

ZawawI tradING INroduces ‘proveNexclusIvIty’ used car proGraM
Zawawi Trading Co. LLC., the authorized general distributor of Mercedes-Benz in the Sultanate of Oman, has launched a new website dedicated to its Daimler AG approved pre-owned car program ‘ProvenExclusivity’. The new site www.oman. mb-usedcars.com showcases the pre-owned Mercedes Benz vehicles available through Zawawi Trading Company. The user-friendly website gives comprehensive details such as vehicle information and specifications, accurate mileage and prices. Details of each vehicle available for sale is accompanied by a studio photograph.

Dhofar Automotive, the official distributor of Jeep in Oman, is giving motorists the perfect opportunity to escape the heat of the summer every day from only RO 8,990 with the redesigned and sleeker looking Jeep Cherokee. Jeep has managed to take everything into account when designing the Cherokee and customers can expect to find a perfect blend of styling, convenience, storage, multimedia and high performance with a strong focus on safety and security.

Mitsubishi Oman

Fast Rent A Car

Fast Rent A Car is offering great half-price deals on all bookings in the UAE this summer. While also making international bookings for residents travelling overseas easy courtesy of a special tie-up with the world’s largest car rental broker, Holiday Autos. This special promotion runs up to August 29. The deal offers car hirers either two days for the

A brand new multimedia campaign has been launched for some Mitsubishi Lancer models by Mitsubishi Oman. The campaign is dedicated in promoting the GLX 2.0, GLS 2.0 and GT 2.0 models and is built around ‘show your personality’ theme. Ambitious, Bold, Calm, Mysterious and Practical are the virtues which are being used to describe the car and participating audience members are encouraged to match their personalities with these. A special Face Book page [lancer.ex.oman] has been creatred which allows individuals to log in access and share information. Meanwhile, an audience call-in radio campaign also encourages participation through a quiz and interaction to work out just what kind of Lancer EX personality they are through fun and light hearted questions.

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Wattayah Tel.: 24579050 • Branches Tel.: Adam 25434122, Al Kamil 25557010, Bahla 25420810, Barka 26882150, B.B.Ali 25553692, Bidaya 26803900, Buraimi 25660124, Dibba 26836514, Ibra 25571457, Ibri 25687100, Izki 25341690, Khasab 26730942, Liwa 26762083/176, Mabela 24451869, Nizwa 25410602, Quriyat 24845178, Rustaq 26876199, Salalah 23217311, Seeb Al Mawaleh 24550000/13, Shinas 26747168, Sinaw 25524203, Sohar 26858500, Saham 26856805, Sumail 25350500, Sur 25540103, Suwaiq 26860651/2, Thumrait 23279444

world news}

A true treAt for AficionAdos

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ast month, the usually quiet town of Cernobbio on the banks of Lake Como in Italy was virtually converted in to a regatta for automotive aficionados. Besides a stunning array of cars representing classic, period or modern, enthusiasm for the group was further lifted for the first time with motorcycles also jostling for attention. As always, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este brought together a selection of classic models and new concept cars to the acclaim of the assembled audience. Included in the categories, motorcycles also competed for class and overall victory in a competition of their own, as fans of two-wheeled classics headed to the Villa Erba for Saturday’s motorcycle concours. Another new feature of the Concorso was the sale held by RM Auctions with a line-up of 32 extraordinary cars on the block. “Our aim was to take this long-established event into new territory while preserving its character,” said Karl Baumer, President of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este and Director of BMW Group Classic, outlining the reasons behind the changes. “The main initiative we introduced to give people extra opportunity to visit the Concorso was the addition of a second public day.” The jury awarded the Trofeo BMW Group, and with it “best of show” honours, to a 1968 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, while the time-honoured Coppa d’Oro prize decided by public referendum went to an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS from 1942. The “Concept Cars and Prototypes” category, meanwhile, was topped by the Aston Martin Zagato celebrating its world premiere at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Another model making its debut at the event was the BMW 328 Hommage, unveiled by the Bavarian company to mark the 75th birthday of its iconic BMW 328 sports car from the 1930s. The Trofeo BMW Group in the first Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este for motorcycles was won by an American Pierce Four from 1910. After presenting the award, General Director of BMW Motorrad Hendrik von

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Kuenheim shifted the spotlight to plans for the years ahead: “We are looking to develop this concours into a meeting point for all enthusiasts of motorcycle design. That fits in with both the tradition of the BMW motorcycle brand and the passion for bikes here in Italy.”

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*Comparison between a standard fuel and the same standard fuel containing our fuel economy formula. Actual benefits may vary according to vehicle, driving conditions and driving style.

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brandwatch
Opel fortunes linked with China?
peculation is ripe on the heels of leaked news out of Europe that General Motors CEO Dan Akerson had personally contacted Opel CEO Karl-

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last year, Opel is a much larger a n d less

F r i e d r i c h Stracke. It is suggested that both Volkswagen and various Chinese parties are seriously considering a bid for the beleaguered GM unit. Although, “top-level” talks between Opel’s chief rival VW and the government of Germany have taken place, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to prefer that Opel be taken over by VW rather than a Chinese entity. A well know automotive magazine says that VW would be interested in acquiring Opel in part to help preserve its supplier and engineering base in Germany. VW, like Germany, is cautious about Chinese investment that could see Opel depart German soil almost entirely. Unlike Volvo, which was acquired by China’s Geely

premium brand that could benefit more from low assembly and engineering costs in China. VW’s case is strong as it has about $20bn in reserves that could easily be tapped to acquire Opel. GM has not been able to turn a profit on Opel in years and instead has invested heavily in its Korean new car development centre, which is largely responsible for the automaker’s small car renaissance. Analysts think that Opel is deeply entrenched in GM’s global product development and engineering, which makes it exceedingly difficult [and costly] to separate the brand.

denied plans to divest itself of its money-losing Opel unit, although analysts have suggested that the Detroit automaker looks like it is in a selling mood. GM put Opel up for sale about two years ago when it was going through its structured bankruptcy. “We are not interested in Opel,” a Hyundai spokesperson told Reuters in Seoul. Instead, the Korean automaker will work toward its goal of selling 500,000 cars in Europe by 2013 on its own. Hyundai hasn’t seen the same level of growth in Europe as it has in the United States, although it is optimistic that it can achieve a 5 per cent share of the market by 2015.

Hyundai not interested in GM’s Opel
yundai has an ambitious growth plan for Europe, but the carmakers says that its European growth strategy won’t include acquisition of another brand such as Opel. General Motors has neither confirmed nor

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Although it looked like Opel might find a new owner in a Canadian-Russian consortium, GM abruptly changed its mind and decided to hold onto the Germany unit it has fully owned since 1931 even though it has put more engineering emphasis on its GM-Daewoo division in Korea lately.

Is China’s Youngman going to save Saab finally?

ussian investor Vladimir Antonov says he is no longer part of a plan to buy and then lease back property to Saab and stalled Saab isn’t giving up that easily as it tries its luck once again with another possible Chinese rescuer. Youngman, better known for building re-badged Proton and Lotus cars, MAN trucks and Neoplan buses for the Chinese market is the latest wouldbe saviour for Saab Automobile. Youngman Automobile [full name Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co Ltd] is reported to have signed a three-way deal with Saab owner Spyker Cars NV and its new Chinese distributor Pang Da Automobile for joint ventures. The agreement suggests not only make and distribute Saab cars in China but
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A team from Pang Da on a visit to the Saab Museum also create a sub brand – tentatively dubbed ‘Child’. Should all go well, Youngman will buy a 29.9

per cent slice of Spyker to become the Chinese manufacturing partner for the strategic alliance and Pang Da will be responsible for distribution through its huge dealership network of more than 1100 outlets. Although, the deal is worth €245mn, the catch is that it still needs to be approved by Chinese and Swedish authorities and third parties such as General Motors and the European Investment Bank. It may be recalled that in Saab’s previous attempt with Hawtai Motor, the stumbling block came from the aforementioned organisations. The latest attempt to shore up the ailing Swedish brand comes as Saab tries to wrap up the sale of its Trollhattan facilities and lease them back to ease its cash crunch.

2012 Nissan Maxima to be refreshed inside out
hile Nissan has yet to physically show the changes, the automaker has revealed that the 2012 Maxima will be sporting a new front fascia, new rear combination lights and new 18- and 19in designer wheels. Stepping inside the Maxima will reveal a bevy of changes, including a change to white for the meter cluster illumination colour, new Dark Piano-hairline trim, a new Atlantic Cherry wood tone trim colour and an all-new Beige interior colour. No mechanical upgrades have been suggested so far.

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A billion dollars for Lincoln brand boost

Honda’s gloomy forecast for 2011

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t’s no secret that Lincoln is planning to launch seven refreshed or completely new models between now and 2014, but achieving such a feat is no easy task if the kitty isn’t enough. Ford is reportedly putting its money where its mouth is, by injecting $1bn in its

ailing luxury brand and has formed a tactical team of 85 experts to sort out Lincoln’s woes. The first new model to roll out will be the new MKZ, a compact model based on the C-platform underpinning the Ford Focus, followed by a compact and a mid-size crossover. These cars are expected to be among the seven new or refreshed models Lincoln has planned.

Automan’s take: New Lincoln models will
be based on regular Ford platforms, though they will be differentiated more by their styling as well as technology and powertrains.

VW targeting bumper sales in China this year
ith its sights firmly set on the rapidlygrowing Chinese market, Volkswagen says that it is on track to sell more than 2.2mn new cars this year. “We want to maintain our market share of 20 per cent,” CEO Martin Winterkorn told Auto Motor und Sport, a German car magazine recently. To do so, VW will launch another new car brand with its two domestic-market joint ventures.“We have agreed with both our joint ventures, FAW and Shanghai Volkswagen, to develop a new brand,” Winterkorn said,

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although he didn’t reveal additional details. A low-range brand would best suit Chinese consumers, who are among the world’s most price-sensitive. VW’s sales are up 15.3 per cent through the first five months of 2011 even as sales have generally tapered off in response to government vehicle registration caps aimed at reducing congestion and pollution in the country’s biggest cities. So far, VW has sold 714,000 new cars in China in 2011, firmly cementing the market’s position as VW’s largest.

onda announced last month that it expects its full-year operating profit to drop 65 per cent in the wake of Japan’s March 11 9.0 magnitude earthquake. Despite this forecast, Honda says its global production is nearing normalcy. Parts shortages as a result of Japan’s massive earthquake have forced most Honda plants to run at just a fraction of their normal capacity, greatly limiting the automaker’s ability to get vehicles to the market place. Honda says that fact combined with rising raw material costs and an estimated $500mn repair bill to fix its earthquakedamaged facilities will drag down this year’s operating profit by 65 per cent. For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012, Honda expects to tally an operating profit of $2.49bn. However, Honda is quite optimistic and expects its Japanese production to be “nearly normalized” by the end of June, with overseas production returning to normal no later than September. Honda is still hopeful it can sell 3.3mn vehicles this year, marking a drop of just 6 percent from the year earlier. “We’re expecting sales of nearly one million vehicles in both the third and fourth quarters, out of the total 3.3mn this year,” Honda CEO Fumihiko Ike said. Honda plans to boost production by 20 per cent, particularly at its US plants, to meet its sales goals.
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brandwatch
arlier this year at the Chicago Auto Show, Chevrolet unveiled its rangetopping ZL1 Camaro. Details were vague at the time and some cool details of the Shelby rival were inadvertently slipped in by Al Oppenheiser, director of concept and vehicle integration for GM’s Performance Division, at an event at the Camaro’s Oshawa, Ontario production plant, last month. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will arrive packing “at least” 500hp and a six-speed manual transmission, but, Oppenheiser also confirmed that the ZL1 will be offered with an automatic transmission. Given the ZL1’s bigger brother – the Corvette ZR1 – is offered exclusively with a manual gearbox, it was thought that the

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Camaro might follow the same path. However, looking to appeal to a wider audience, the six-speed auto box is being offered. On the performance front, Oppenheiser confirmed that the Camaro ZL1 will available with the same Performance Traction Management system used in the ZR1. The Performance Traction Management system recently helped the Corvette ZR1 to a 7:19.63 Nurburgring lap time. Finally, Oppenheiser indicated that the ZL1 would hit showrooms with a horsepower rating trumping the Cadillac CTS-V. Chevrolet has so far only stated that the ZL1 will have at least 550hp. Knowing GM, we would look north of the CTS-V’s current 556hp.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to outclass CTS-V?

Maybach to get demoted?
ercedes-Benz parent company Daimler is close to a decision on what to do about its other luxury brand, Maybach, and one of the options being weighed is making Maybach a sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz. Last week we reported that Daimler was considering a partnership with Aston Martin in order to keep the Maybach brand alive. In that report, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche candidly admitted that Maybach has been a dismal failure for the company. According to a new report by Automotive News Europe, Daimler has three options on the table. One is to demote the division to a sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz, the second is to try to forge an alliance with Aston Martin while the third is to discontinue the brand altogether.

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Reducing Maybach into a junior division of Mercedes-Benz would work much like the AMG brand identifies high-performance variants of models in the Benz lineup. Maybach badged variants of the S-, GL- and CL-Class vehicles would be luxurious high-end variants of those models.

Daimler has postponed a deadline for a decision on Maybach from July 1st to the end of July, when the next meeting of the company’s supervisory board is scheduled.

Volvos in recall

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ast month, Volvo recalled 7,558 S60 sedans in the US for faulty fuel delivery system software, but now the Swedish automaker is announcing another fuel-related recall. Although, much limited in its scope this time, only 448 S60s in the US have been affected. The more severe in its nature as the problem stems from a leaky fuel line that can lead to a vehicle fire. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains that the fuel-line quick connector can potentially detach, which could cause the engine to stall. It is also possible that the line could develop a slow leak, which may or may not create a strong enough odour of gasoline/petrol to become noticeable to the driver.

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Esprit to challenge Ferrari and McLaren

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otus CEO Dany Bahar has recently proclaimed that his company’s upcoming Esprit model will offer more “authentic” driving experience than the Ferrari 458 Italia and McLaren MP4-12C. The replacement Esprit is still about two years from its production launch, but Bahar guarantees that the car will “have the character

and emotion” that he claims the McLaren MP4-12C lacks. Bahar says the Esprit is adhering to its development scheduled, with the first prototypes slated to hit the track this November. As expected, Lotus will find tune the new Esprit on Germany’s famed Nurburgring as well as the Indiada circuit in Spain. Lotus is

also putting the finishing touches on a new test track at its Hethel headquarters. When it launches in the spring of 2013, the Esprit will be the first car to use Lotus’ new inhouse designed V8. Lotus originally planned to source the Esprit’s V8 from Toyota, but Bahar says the new engine will be 80kg lighter and 40 per cent smaller than the Toyota unit. Despite its small size, the Esprit’s V8 is expected to produce 570hp.

Porsche moves forward with VW merger

Toyota post-earthquake recovery progressing well

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ash rich German sports carmaker Porsche has scheduled an extraordinary general meeting for its shareholders in December to vote on a merger with Volkswagen. This is one of the final steps needed to complete the tie-up formalities. “Our clear, common goal is, and remains, the merger,” said Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn at Porsche’s annual meeting in Stuttgart. Both automakers, which are run by the same management team now, are confident that the merger will go through, although VW will have the option to acquire Porsche by other means if necessary should their efforts fail. A handful of complex tax issues stand in the way of the merger’s completion, but Porsche’s CFO says he is working directly with German

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authorities to clear things up. Porsche is being investigated both in Germany and in the United States for market manipulations, which could force the merger to fail. Porsche has sliced its debt by about $2.15bn ahead of the merger. Although Porsche’s financial standing was solid a few years ago, it incurred substantial debt when it tried to buy Volkswagen. When its efforts failed thanks to a worsening financial market, Porsche’s took on rapidly-growing debt. In late 2009, Volkswagen found that it had to acquire 49.9 percent of Porsche. It holds the option to acquire the remaining 50.1 percent between late 2012 and early 2015, which is still an option should the merger fall through.

ike several automakers in Japan, Toyota is still recovering from the devastating March 11 earthquake. However, the automaker has announced that its recovery is progressing faster than first estimated. Toyota expects inventory levels of most North American vehicles to return to normal by July, far outpacing its original November timeline. Although several of Toyota’s Japanese suppliers are still reeling from the country’s massive earthquake, the automaker has managed to source needed parts from North American manufacturers. Toyota plans to switch back to its original suppliers once the situation returns to normal, but the move has ensured full production of models like the Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, Sequoia, Sienna and Venza. While Toyota’s North American made vehicles will return to normal supply levels next month, the automaker is still facing inventory shortages for its Japanese-built cars. Toyota builds its Yaris, 4Runner and FJ Cruiser models in Japan.

Automan’s take: It may be recalled that the proposed Porsche and VW’s merger has been quite curious eversince Porsche unsuccessfully tried to take over much larger VW, only to be swallowed up by its intended purchase.
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Face to Face

Designs of a Master
KIA’s design chief Peter Schreyer was in Oman recently. Raj Warrior met him and got an opportunity to grill him on his design direction.

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hen you read the man’s biography you realise how much the German design ethos are part of the man. After studying industrial design from the Munich University of Applied Sciences, he won an Audi scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. After that he joined Audi and rose through the company to become the chief designer. Post 2002 till 2005 he was with Volkswagen in the same capacity and then Head of Advanced Design for the VW group. Two cars he was responsible for are the original Audi TT and the re-birthed VW Beetle. He moved to KIA in 2006 and he has been a driving force of the new look of the brand since then. He is a winner of the Red Dot Award. The perfect person to partner with KIA’s thrust on design, Schreyer oversees operations at KIA’s design centres in Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Namyang in Korea. Schreyer admits to a fascination with studying people as they use cars, especially brands he is associated with. He looks in cars while at traffic lights and sees the person driving it and what emotions he projects.

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As an outsider brought in to develop a clear identity for the KIA brand, how much of resistance have you faced from within the organisation to imbibing new ideas like a global identity as opposed to the different model for different market approach? I haven’t faced any resistance from the organisation. I think this is what they expected when they brought me in. They have supported me throughout. The only thing is that we still do different models for different markets. But they all look like KIAs so there is one language, the style is the same only sometimes in different markets there is a requirement for different types of cars – for example the US market is one for sedans and SUVs and the European market is one for 5-door. In a market like Korea or even here you couldn’t sell a 5-door. In Europe they want 5-doors and wagons. So this way we need to make a kind of a difference in regions, but again, not from a style point of view. A BMW looks like a BMW everywhere in the world and why not. This is what I try to build up – a strong identity. Once you have a strong identity and a stronger image you can experiment, but you can get a stronger image only by having one recognisable identity. You also mentioned that you had to create the new look and identity pretty rapidly. Would that make owners of older look KIAs feel like they had lost out by not waiting for the newer model? I would hope they buy new KIAs. (laughs) How much importance do exterior and interior design get separately under your watch? Do tastes of different regions impact different interiors? First of all, the exterior and the interior are of equal importance. When you see a car on the street or the parking you note that it is attractive and that may bring you to the dealer’s showroom to see what it is about? When you open the door and sit inside you don’t want to be disappointed, you want to feel that this a great interior too. I always look at a car as a holistic product, not as the exterior and interior. Everything is designed as a whole and should be done in such a way that exterior and interior fit together as one

car. As for the tastes of different regions – it isn’t so much the style as it is the materials. Another aspect is the pricing. In some regions they don’t want to pay a premium – selling the cars at a cheaper price. In that case we can’t use leather or soft touch materials. In other regions the same models are positioned for more affluent buyers. In those cases they want soft-touch materials, navigation and the best you can get in leather and everything. In those cases we can charge a little more money and the buyers are willing to pay it. In Europe buyers want a harder suspension, while in the US they want a softer suspension and cup-holders. You are constantly looking at popular culture for inputs in car design. But at some levels you must find yourself constrained by the technology that is available. What are the new boundaries you are facing in terms of possibilities in car design? I think of the new boundaries as new possibilities. One of the new possibilities can be found in alternative drivetrains, like using electric motors and hybrids. This should change the scenery quite a bit. The way the oil prices are moving, in countries that don’t have the oil, ways need to be found how to make the electricity. It will take time but these are challenges. Just as are safety rules. As you mentioned there are new ways to use lighting – using which we can make a lot of improvements. One way is by using LED and light guide technologies you can make an identity. When you see a car in the night you can instantly recognise it. The Audis were very well defined like that. Using light you can make the car have a face with the lights playing the role of the eyes. Also, you can use adaptive headlight technologies to improve safety, having the light swivel as you go round corners. We already have the ability to program a car to automatically dip its lights on sensing an oncoming car. There are a lot of possibilities. I believe that it is the new technologies and the new challenges that bring design forward. Design does not advance on its own just by changing a line or some colour. You need more than that – a new technology to somehow progress design.

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2011: most improved cars

Whether you are looking for a fuel-efficient small car, a sporty convertible, a SUV or a family minivan, Automan explains why for consumers, it is a good time to invest in a new car.
Author Chandan B Mallik

uying a new car is now mostly seen as a medium to long term investment these days. Essential information about any purchase decision, especially cars can overwhelm anyone and this is true for transportation solutions also. In this region, consumers are exposed to almost 50 car brands which offer a staggering choice of over 300 model or trim combinations. And each year, as part of the business cycle, every automotive player has an extensive programme for its line-up – be it mid-cycle upgrades, model replacements or all-new segment introductions. Compared to the past few years, the first six months of 2011 have actually been quite active despite the economic slowdown and current automotive crisis [short supplies as a result of the earthquake and Tsunami that has hit Japan’s industry]. Meanwhile, the global automotive market has made significant

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strides in ensuring that products get extended shelf life and are noticed by consumers. To achieve these, industry has invested in making products more appealing and competitive by addressing issues that can significantly help move sales such as upgrading features/ trims, engineering and performance related improvements [to cope with new legislation], refreshing styling and even replacing the models that have reached the end of their respective careers or lifecycles. Actually, these days buying or a new car is like investing in a sports franchise. Like any seasoned sports outfit for sale, you have to run a meticulous background check on the various components [players, performance, finances, stats etc] and rank them ideally. When it comes to choosing the ideal car you’ve also got consider your favourites [like veteran players whom you can depend on as always].

While in form, any punter would expect an investment to be great, but also needs to factor in the ground reality that could also be a couple of players who have gotten complacent as competition has overtaken them and as a result they have gone into decline but have scope to improve with some inducements. At the same time, there are some team members who have been around for a while but haven’t really been noticed despite reasonable performance. And then there are some who are beginning to earn their stripes by really getting their act in place and returning into form. Automan has been monitoring the Oman market closely for over a decade and we have compiled a researched selection of cars that we think currently represent the ‘best improved’ in their respective categories. Read on…

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Score card Ratings

Launched with great fanfare in the region last month, the all-new XXX generation is understated and yet luxurious. It certainly deserves consideration alongside its capable European and Japanese rivals.

Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Audi A6

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
V8 engines have been droped in favour of two V6 engines displacing 2.8- and 3.0-litre respectively. The supercharged 3.0-litre with multitronic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. Interiors & features More luxurious now with many new comfort and convenience features. Bespoke programme also available for trims including leather and wood. Handling & performance Although the car rides on the A7 platform,

sedan

Styling Revealed at the North American International Auto Show at Detroit in January, the the 2012 model has been completely redesigned with sporty, upscale styling. Engineering Audi has focused on weight reduction and hence extensive usage of aluminium in chassis and body parts. With the exception of the wheelbase which has been extended by 2.7in, most dimensions remain unaltered. Powertrain options

it feels quite different. The new normally aspirated and tweaked supercharged V6 make good for absence of an V8. Chassis and suspension management are well-suited for AWD. The interior now represents a need benchmark in style, quality and bespoke options. Key competitors Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series and to a lesser extent, with the Infiniti M, Jaguar XF and Lexus GS.

Automan’s take Stylish, finely finished interior; all-wheel drive; strong supercharged V6 engines
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2011: most improved cars
Ford also moves into crossover SUV territory with is all-new unibody Explorer, one of its bedrock SUV badges. Till now the Explorer was based on body-on-frame architecture and with the all-new Explorer, Ford has set several unique benchmarks for the segment in terms of construction, engineering and features.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Ford Explorer

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
of options. It can be equipped [for the first time] with front-wheel drive or “intelligent” four-wheel drive. The largest engine is a 3.5litre V6 engine [same as Edge] that promises to offer the best in class fuel economy with a impressive towing capability. For some markets Ford will also offer EcoBoost 2.0-litre I-4 engine. The car is offered with a unique six-speed transmission and a SelectShift Automatic transmission on top trim levels. The V6 actually offers more horsepower and is up to 25 per cent better on fuel mileage. Interiors & features The interior look expensive and narrows the gap between itself and premium offerings.

SUV

Styling This three-row reinvention is longer and wider. Its smooth and sharp styling hides its chunkiness. With delightful proportions, short overhangs and fluid lines, the car is more aerodynamic than before. Engineering Based on the new Taurus architecture, Ford claims 10 segment exclusives in this car including some in safety, with optional inflatable rear seatbelts and standard curve control, which applies braking to individual wheels as needed to correct corner trajectory. Powertrain options The new Explorer will offer quite a range

Ford’s interactive MMI technology application is one of the best Handling & performance With its rigid chassis and careful tuning of the independent suspension, smooth car-like manners are expected on-road. But the car’s new four mode Terrain Management system that calculates engine and throttle calibrations, transmission shift patterns, stability and traction-control systems is eerily similar to that in Land Rover’s and should help give the car its performance edge over rivals. Key competitors Jeep Grand Cherokee, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot and Dodge Durango

Automan’s take As a package, the new Explorer will be really hard to beat. In the US, it is already on sale, sales of the Ford Explorer soared by almost
138 per cent in April. It ranks 14th in the overall most in demand cars of 2011. 23

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The original Durango was a fuel thirsty body-on-frame truck that had worse handling and fuel economy than the larger Chevy Suburban with less space inside than the Tahoe. The new 2011 Durango launched a few weeks ago changes all. for better gas mileage when cruising on the highway. Mercedes’ ride and Hemi power? That’s a tough-tobeat combination.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Dodge Durango

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?

SUV

Styling Revealed at the at the 2010 LA Auto Show, the completely redesigned new arrival looks like a real Dodge — unmistakably tough and muscular. Engineering The new car is built on a new crossover SUV unibody chassis [also shared with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and R-Class] Powertrain options Entry level models get the company’s allnew 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine. The latest version of the reworked Hemi V8, with

seamless cylinder deactivation for optimizing fuel economy is also offered. Full time AWD is available in the V6, while low range can be locked in the V8s [also with limited slip diff locks]. Interiors & features Dodge’s President and CEO Ralph Gilles’ team has transformed this bare utility vehicle into a luxurious fashion statement. The top spec Citadel model sports a pleasant two-tone leather bound cabin that combines some of the features and flexibility of a minivan with a less upright seating and a host of convenience

features. Handling & performance By class benchmarks the Durango has a refined ride and balanced performance and by previous Durango standards it’s beyond comparison. Key competitors VW Touareg, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, BMW X5, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Veracruz, Kia Sorento, Subaru Tribeca, Mazda CX-9, and Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Infiniti FX and Lexus RX330.

Automan’s take Near the top in many departments including pricing and variants that SUV punters are looking at these days.
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2011: most improved cars
Also revealed at the November 2010 LA Auto Show, the refreshed for 2011 Charger enters evolutionary territory with an all-new sheetmetal, quality and improved interiors. It also opens a new chapter in unadulterated 2+2 muscle cars.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Dodge Charger

Body type:

sedan

What’s in?

what’s out?
Chrysler’s second-generation rear-wheel-drive E-segment architecture, to achieve very high structural stiffness and torsional strength, which contributes to tighter handling and safety. Powertrain options The regular range includes the 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar and larger V8 Hemi engines with Eco drive modes. Performance R/T versions are also offered. Interiors & features More luxurious now with many new comfort and convenience features. Bespoke programme also available for trims including leather and wood. Handling & performance As a pure and modern pony car, it’s difficult to fault the on road prowess and handling of this car even with the V6. Key competitors Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro.

Styling The raw and aggressive face has now become refined and businesslike without losing the hallmark and signature crosshair grill. The rear end with its full-width LED taillamp connects to the 70s styling. Engineering The new car’s foundation is an all-new chassis and suspension package mated to efficient powertrains. The new chassis uses advanced steels, nylon composites with

Automan’s take a stylish and highly entertaining Charger with undiluted performance and a wide range to appeal the appetite of muscle cars.
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A few years ago, UK-based Bentley Motors boasted that its new luxury “gran turismo” coupe would open up a whole new market segment. In an era where predictions in the motoring business have been sort of a roller coaster ride for many, at least Bentley were spot on with that prediction. The seminal and highly successful Bentley Continental GT introduced in 2003 not only represented the first step in Bentley’s renaissance but also defined a whole new market segment. It was a luxury GT offering excellent usability that remained true to the Bentley grand touring spirit.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Bentley CGT

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
6.0-litre, 12-cylinder, twin-turbocharged powertrain. Actually output is up to 567bhp and torque stands at 700Nm. New technologies include a new Quickshift transmission which enables double downshifts. Thanks to advanced FlexFuel technology it can also run on both standard unleaded petrol (gasoline) and sustainable bioethanol (up to E85) or any mix of the two. Meanwhile, a new high-output 4.0-litre V8 engine option will be introduced in late 2011. Interiors & features The interior combines form, practicality and innovation. More luxurious now with many new comfort and convenience features, perhaps the most stylish new storage device in the car

coupe

Styling For Crewe’s design team, the new CGT coupe was an opportunity to set a bold and exciting direction for one of Bentley’s most revered badge once again. The car’s existing profile has been sharpened with stronger character lines and a modded face. Engineering Bentley has carried forward the existing chassis but has focused on weight reduction elsewhere. Aluminium Super Forming technology has been employed to create the front mudguards and boot lid. Powertrain options While displacement downsizing is a global trend, there’s no downsizing the proven

is the exquisitely designed, folding, removable case designed to hold items such as keys and pens and which can also be slipped into a pocket or bag. Handling & performance The car now offers more dynamic handling, improved comfort, and benefits from up-todate electronics. Key competitors True competition at this lofty level is rare. The Aston Martin DB9 provides more driving excitement at a similar price and the lesser priced Maserati GranTurismo is arguably one of the more attractive cars. Mercedes-Benz also has a CL600 and its AMG derivatives.

Automan’s take Although Bentley would want everyone to consider its 2011 Continental GT as an all-new car, like an aging Hollywood star, the
2011 Bentley Continental GT just needed a little work to be done.

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2011: most improved cars
Value for money has become a permanent USP for Hyundai-built motor cars which is in contrast to its image a few years ago. While the global motoring industry bears the brunt of the economic meltdown, Hyundai is perhaps the only volume carmaker [along with Kia] which actually gained robust sales worldwide. Now, Hyundai is on a design, engineering and quality drive.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Hyundai Elantra

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
145hp 1.8-litre engine mated with a standard six-speed transmission (either manual or automatic) also produce an impressive fuel economy of up to 40 mpg in highway driving. Interiors & features Offered in two trim levels, an array of features complement a good dose of style with upmarket fit and finish. The top trim is more luxurious with many new comfort and convenience features. The cabin has added enough volume to be classed by EPA a midsize car and by key dimensions like head and legroom. Handling & performance The car’s 1.8-litre engine actually produces

sedan

Styling here’s quite a bit of design influence from the larger new Sonata which itself boasts of Hyundai’s ‘fluidic sculpture’ language. As a result, the new coupe-styled Elantra is crisp, clean, downright sporty in what is generally considered an economy segment. Engineering The new platform design allows the car to be larger and yet lighter without sacrificing on safety or comfort. Powertrain options Hyundai’s astonishing improvements in powertrain engineering are among reasons why the new Elantra is so much better. Its new

power and torque almost equivalent to many of its 2.0-litre rivals, yet it seems a little lazy in highlighting its capabilities. Hyundai has calibrated the throttle for significant response and hence it has to be pushed. While it’s fairly happy doing so, peak power comes at 6,500 rpm before a soft rev limiter chips in for engine protection. The new chassis and independent suspension assist the car to ride firmly and also ensure that the cheap feel of budget cars is not felt at all. Key competitors Ford Focus, Kia Rio, Honda Civic, Nissan Tiida/ Sunny, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Chevrolet Cruz

Automan’s take a stylish and highly entertaining Charger with undiluted performance and a wide range to appeal the appetite of muscle cars.

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Score card Ratings

Premiered at the 2010 New York International Auto Show, the Optima is one of Kia Motors first all-new replacement models to be penned by ex-Audi chief design director Peter Schreyer.

Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Kia Optima

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
C-pillars is a distinctive design motif in this coupe-like profile car. Powertrain options A four-cylinder 200hp 2.4-litre or 2.0-litre engine is available with six speed transmissions depending on market. Interiors & features The sedan’s chic cabin complements the sharp and stylish exterior. Materials used give a luxurious feel and the cabin is endowed with many new comfort and convenience features. Premium features include push-button start

sedan

Styling The Optima isn’t quite as sultry as its mechanical sibling, the Hyundai Sonata, but is in a class of its own. Designed at Kia’s studios in Frankfurt, Germany and Irvine, California, the car’s design focus is no longer Korean or even Asian for that matter but comes across as is a true world car. Wider and lower than the model it replaces, it is based on an all-new midsize platform that allows for distinctive dimensions and proportions. The sweeping chrome arc that flows from the A- to the

with smart key and dual-zone automatic climate control. Handling & performance The bigger four cylinder pot is able to offer thrifty acceleration and is quite smooth under most operating conditions. A bit noisy when pushed, otherwise poised and relaxed. Chassis and suspension are more European biased in feedback and response. Key competitors Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, VW Passat.

Automan’s take The Optima D-segment saloon has been transformed from a nobody to a game changing designer statement with engineering and performance to match. If Kia officials have always maintained that the new Optima represented a paradigm shift for the company, we have to agree that it truly is. Single-handedly, it has virtually shaken and stirred the segment. Aimed at the fast-growing mid-size family sedan segment, this is a car of remarkable finesse for its sticker price and will surely not be overlooked for years.
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2011: most improved cars
Chevrolet was the creator of the first sports utility vehicle back in the 1930’s with the Suburban. The first generation Captiva hit the market back at the end of 2006 marked a turning point for the brand and now, the bow-tie brand’s compact SUV has been given a major makeover for 2011. Revealed as a major facelifted model at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the car has been extensively been re-engineered to offer upscale styling comfort and handling.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Chevrolet Captiva

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
model. For the first time on Chevrolet Captiva, Hill Start Assist (HSA) has been included. Powertrain options The 2011 Captiva offers efficient new engines displacing 2.4- and 3.0-litres respectively. The underperforming 3.2-litre V6 has been dropped. The new engines which employ variable valve timing (VVT) are mated to a new six-speed transmission. Interiors & features An array of finishes and textures including all new seat fabrics and interior trims gives the car a more up-market feel and look. Designers have also included trendy features such as as ice-blue back lighting, auxillary inputs, USB-

SUV

Styling A new face and some detailing on an existing profile doesn’t tamper with the car’s three row theatre seating or seven occupant capacity. Engineering A lot of engineering work has been carried out in the area of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) to improve overall refinement. The AWD system has improved mount isolation which enables lower engine speeds to be used without unsettling vibration; the engine has a new hydraulic mounting which reduces vibration at idle; the engine sound intensity inside the cabin has been reduced and is now more than 3db lower than the outgoing

port connectivity and Bluetooth connectivity. Handling & performance Customers will retain the option of choosing between two and four-wheel drives, the fruits of the improvements in chassis hardware make the Captiva feel an even safer, more composed and enjoyable drive on the road. One of the great advantages of the new compact automatic transmission is that it has allowed the engineers to enhance crumple zones, increase interior space and lower the bonnet line. Key competitors Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape.

Automan’s take The refreshed model with stylish and finely finished interior is very much a car of the times and is more than just being lifestyle oriented. Specifically, designed for families and their everyday requirements, it offers some usable off-road capabilities. It certainly deserves consideration alongside its capable European and Japanese lifestyle-oriented SUV rivals.
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As a model, the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the past suffered from several shortsighted policies initiated during the previous ownership. Yes, we specifically are referring to the years when the Jeep brand was controlled by then-DaimlerChrysler [DC]. DC was notorious for introducing several cost cutting measures in the brand and the once-luxurious cabin of premium materials in the capable old Grand Cherokee became a thing of the past. But all that is past history now after Chrysler split from the Daimler and aligned itself with Fiat. The results of the new alliance are beginning to be noticed at all levels.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Body type: What’s in? What’s out?
seamless cylinder deactivation for optimizing fuel economy is also offered. Full time AWD is available in the V6, while low range can be locked in the V8s [also with limited slip diff locks]. Interiors & features Dodge’s President and CEO Ralph Gilles’ team has transformed this bare utility vehicle into a luxurious fashion statement. The top spec Citadel model sports a pleasant two-tone leather bound cabin that combines some of the features and flexibility of a minivan with a less upright seating and a host of convenience

SUV

Styling Revealed at the at the 2010 LA Auto Show, the completely redesigned new arrival looks like a real Dodge — unmistakably tough and muscular. Engineering The new car is built on a new crossover SUV unibody chassis [also shared with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and R-Class] Powertrain options Entry level models get the company’s allnew 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine. The latest version of the reworked Hemi V8, with

features. Handling & performance By class benchmarks the Durango has a refined ride and balanced performance and by previous Durango standards it’s beyond comparison. Key competitors VW Touareg, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, BMW X5, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Veracruz, Kia Sorento, Subaru Tribeca, Mazda CX-9, and Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Infiniti FX and Lexus RX330.

Automan’s take Near the top in many departments including pricing and variants that SUV punters are looking at these days.
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2011: most improved cars
The 2011 Jaguar XJ is the vital link that completes the evolution of Jaguar’s new family tree which was revealed at the 2009 Frankfurt International Motor Show.
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

Jaguar XJ

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
in powertrain technology to help deliver an outstanding combination of performance and class-leading efficiency. The supremely powerful supercharged 5.0-litre AJ-V8 Gen III heads the line-up, while naturally aspirated petrol V8s are also available. Interiors & features A coupé profile cloaks a cabin that offers comparable levels of space to conventional sedans, but with more style. There is generous accommodation for five occupants, while long-wheelbase models provide rearseat passengers with even greater levels of comfort thanks to an additional 125mm of rear legroom. The exquisitely designed interior has a strong sporting character throughout. A panoramic glass roof, standard on all models,

sedan

Styling Jaguar’s Design Director Ian Callum [also responsible for styling the late-model XK and path-breaking XF] has morphed a modern bold face into the all-new XJ. The overall package is quite stunning. Engineering Jaguar understands XJ customer requirements quite well and designed the platform to accommodate standard and longwheel versions. There’s application of Jaguar’s nextgeneration unique lightweight construction techniques and material usage. Powertrain options Depending on market, the new XJ offers the choice of four powerful and refined engines. All of them benefit from the latest

dramatically enhances the sense of light and space inside the new XJ. Handling & performance The XJ delivers a driving experience that is just as memorable as the car’s appearance. Benefitting from technologies pioneered on the exciting new XFR and XKR models, including continuously variable damping (Adaptive Dynamics), electronically controlled rear differential (Active Differential Control) and a quick ratio power-steering system, the new XJ combines responsive, sporting dynamics with the refined, supple ride expected from a luxury Jaguar. Key competitors Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS.

Automan’s take The all-new Jaguar XJ brings seductive mix of striking design, breathtaking performance and engineering without compromise.
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Score card Ratings

The all-new completely redesigned third generation Volvo S60 made its international debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. It was launched into one of the automotive world’s most competitive segments.

Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Volvo S60

Body type:

sedan

What’s in?

What’s out?
A single forced fed in-line 3.0-litre engine using a twin-scroll turbocharger offers peak power of 304hp at 5,600 rpm and peak torque of 440Nm between 2,100-4,200 rpm. Aisinbuilt six-speed automatic transmission with clutchless shifting [Geartronic] sends power to all wheels. Interiors & features More luxurious now with many new comfort and convenience features. However, from the practicality vs design view, the car isn’t entirely flawless. With only 380litres at its disposal, the boot space is marginally bigger than a hatchback such as the VW Golf, or better yet, the Audi A3. Handling & performance Though its short overhangs, 18in wheels and taut proportions make the new S60 appear roughly the same size as its more streamlined predecessor, this sedan is actually 60mm longer. The engine is now able to offer increased and dollops of torque at very low engine speeds with spritely acceleration. Although, there are no shift paddles on the steering wheel one can select gears sequentially using the gearshifter and the throttle blips complement the high and low exhaust notes. The car’s fourth-generation of Haldex’s all-wheel-drive system and driveroriented chassis management system makes the car a delight to drive. Key competitors Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS and VW Passat .

Styling With its stylish, clean and sophisticated coupé-like design, the S60 is clearly a car with beautiful lines that have been carefully penned by Steve Mattin, the British designer responsible for the original Mercedes A-Class and the pre-face-lift version of the currentgeneration Mercedes SL. Volvo has definitely jumped quite a few steps in automotive design over the past decade and continues to do so. Engineering Audi has focused on weight reduction and hence extensive usage of aluminium in chassis and body parts. With the exception of the wheelbase which has been extended by 2.7in, most dimensions remain unaltered. Powertrain options

Automan’s take Stylish, finely finished interior; all-wheel drive and responsive acceleration

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2011: most improved cars
Score card
Styling Engineering Powertrain options Interiors & features Handling & performance

Ratings

The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has undergone its first redesign since its introduction back in 2005 when it virtually single-handedly pioneered the coupe-sedan fusion trend.

MercedesBenz CLS

Body type: What’s in? what’s out?
The CLS comes with more powerful and efficient engines.And depending on markets customers will have a choice between four petrol and diesel engines, with four, six and eight cylinders and an output range of between 204 hp to 408 hp and displacements from 2,143cc to a monstrous 4,633cc displacement. In addition to optimisations in the powertrain - all CLS models are fitted with the enhanced 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission as standard - the sophisticated ECO start/stop system helps to ensure extreme efficiency even when driving in urban traffic. The car will be launched with rear-wheel drive first and from September 2011 onwards, for the first time as a 4MATIC with all-wheel drive. Interiors & features In addition to Mercedes’s usual choice of wood, metal and leather trims, the passenger cabin will have four identically shaped seats, with a

sedan

Styling Outrageous proportions such as a long bonnet, narrow-look windows with frameless side windows, dynamic roof sweeping back at an angle towards the rear were the hallmarks of Gen 1. The proportions have stayed the same and yet everything is different, but the new CLS somehow manages to lose the understated elegance of its predecessor. The heavily-sculpted panels and a more masculine overall design could be the reason. Engineering Mercedes has focused on weight reduction and hence extensive usage of aluminium, ultrarigid high-tech alloys and specially composed polypropylene components. As a result, the new construction has called for new joining techniques: instead of welding, a combination of gluing and riveting has been used. Powertrain options

similar level of adjustment front and rear, and a full-cabin center console. Individual sections of the leather dashboard are sewn together by hand in a process that takes several hours, according to Mercedes, and then heat-shrunk over the structure underneath. With safety in mind, all CLS coupes will include Pre-Safe, ABS antilock brakes with Brake Assist, Attention Assist, traction control and the ESP electronic stability control. Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist are also available. Handling & performance Lighter and more efficient than its predecessor, it is expected to exceed the benchmark standards it has already set. With the new systems on board, there should be a feel of more precision in the car. Key competitors One of its toughest competitors will be the allnew Audi A7 Sportback.

Automan’s take When the CLS first arrived, there was no competition. It was a unique sedan that was as comfortable and luxurious as it was
stylish. Now it is longer, wider, taller and heavier than its predecessor, but the best part there anything controversial about the car. 33

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Focus on class and efficiency
audi has completely redesigned the a6 for the 2012 model year with an emphasis on technology and performance. automan finds the package interesting after a date with the car on track and asphalt
Author Chandan B Mallik Photographs author and Jorge Ferrari 34

mongst the three premium German automotive brands, Audi continues with its aggressive portfolio expansion. The latest to arrive is the totally revamped midsize A6 sedan which was lavishly unveiled to the world at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. In the line-up, the premium C-segment A6 has been close to Audi’s heart and has been groomed to be a winner. In fact, the outgoing edition received a host of useful upgrades including efficient six- or eight-cylinder engines with innovative technologies cutting fuel consumption by about 15 per cent across the whole model range, suspension tweaks and new high-tech assistance and improvised new MMI with touchpad systems enabling the driver even greater control over the car. And this evidence of the high regard Audi technologies is enjoying worldwide also leads to the perennial question: how much more can you offer on a replacement model, where the outgoing model has already been improved so much? Audi is very much aware of what it has to do in view of the current global economic scenario which has severely affected the fortunes of many carmakers and hence some of the packaging in the new A6 shouldn’t surprise many. Techno-savvy Audi has focused on efficiency and craftsmanship for the incoming model inside out. It has built a lighter, more efficient sedan and began the exercise by thankfully not increasing the length of the model [which was already one of the largest vehicles in the class] but by using the A7’s underpinnings as its starting point. As a result, the wheelbase is now increased and the car is lowered at the same time. As part of the efficiency drive, Audi has employed greater use of aluminium in its construction to lighten

A

edItorIal

NoMINee 11 edaN

audI a6 20

MId-sIZe s

the whole package by 80kg. This also means that almost 20 per cent of the car is made of aluminium now. Despite some mechanical similarities with the A7, none of the external panels are the same. The incoming A6 is a clean-sheet design and has deeper character lines and mature surface treatment on its sheetmetal. At 194in long, it is marginally shorter than the A7 [both have the same 115in wheelbase] and the A6 actually is a fraction shorter than the outgoing car, but has a remarkably similar profile and design character. Actually, re-engineering the front differential enabled the front axle to move way forward, reducing the front overhang to achieve better design aesthetics. Meanwhile, Audi’s excellence in lighting technology application continues with gorgeous LED clusters front and rear. The car’s interior is where a lot of attention has been paid and has changed more than the exterior. But it’s still wonderfully familiar and it goes without saying that the overall ambience is richer, thanks in part to trim elements used on the doors, dashboard and centre console. Audi says that the car is being offered with a variety of interior trim options, including this bespoke leather, stitching and wood. We found the trim piece surrounding the front door handle was quite striking as a design element.

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Fit, finish and choice of materials is top notch and handcrafted bespoke options enhance the class appeal. The extra wheelbase also adds extra legroom for occupants and for technophiles, the new MMI with touch trackpad should be an all-out entertainer. This touch sensitive pad recognizes the handwriting easily guides the user to a pre-programmed entry, such as navigation, for instance. We’ve found the system more user-friendly and to some extent better than a voice entry system and faster than a conventional scroll-and-click system. Besides the flip in flip out 8in LCD screen in the centre console, there are things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity which certainly ticks our check list boxes. We also noted that while some of the current cars can connect to the Internet via the driver’s cell phone, the A6 features its own dedicated connection. In fact, the system will deliver Google data [detailed maps and updated destinations, for

storY}

instance] to the navigation system in real time and the system also allows the A6 to function as an internet hot spot that can provide web access for up to eight devices at a time. On the entertainment front, the new A6 is the first to offer a Bang & Olufsen sound system similar to the one that first blew us away in the flagship A8. The package offers awesome 1,300 watts of power through 15 strategically located speakers, including two retractable tweeters on the dash. A head-up display also appears on the A6 options list for the first time. For this new generation, it seems that Audi isn’t keen on offering a V8 as before, but it has ensured that this isn’t a sore point for the power hungry. The entry level engine is a naturally aspirated 2.8litre FSI with variable system works in tandem with the throttle and allows

36

the V6 to breathe freely while offering an output of 204hp and 280Nm of torque in the speed range of 5,250 to 6,500rpm. However, a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 will remain as the top end motivator in the A6 line-up. In fact, Audi has further tweaked the supercharged 3.0litre V6 to pump 310hp at 5,500-6,500rpm and 440Nm of torque from 2,900-4,500 rpm.. Seven speed S-tronic transmission is offered with this set-up along with Quattro [Audi’s AWD] system. Meanwhile, Audi has eschewed the hydraulic power steering in favour of a new electro-mechanical system which it claims helps delivers improved fuel economy. The A6 uses Audi’s proven four-link front suspension and the self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspension adapted from the A8. Standard alloy wheels are 16 or 17in in diameter, depending on the engine version and Audi and quattro GmbH will offer wheels with up to 20in rims as an option. Tyre formats ranging from 225/60 to 265/35. In addition to the well-package set-up, Audi’s new baby also offers a virtual valet feature. When you drive slowly by a row of parked cars, the car’s sensors automatically starts looking for a big enough parking spot. It only needs

an extra 2.5ft and it lets you know when it’s found one, at which point all you have to do is put the car in reverse and the computer will steer you perfectly into the spot. Good for drivers who find tight parking spaces a mindboggling exercise!

Driving impressions

The drive programme in Abu Dhabi was split into two sections. One section was normal drive through town and highways while the dynamic handling and performance exercises were conducted at Yas Marina. We got to sample the upgraded 3.0-litre TSFI V6 with Audi’s seven-speed Stronic dual-clutch transmission first. And we must admit that we’re definitely fans of the S tronic, but the added performance and more direct feel comes with a small sacrifice in smoothness at drive-off and in slow-and-go situations. The flip side is that we

37

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didn’t miss the eight-speed transmission which US-bound Audi A6 will get! Strong supercharged power comes right off the line and continues its strong flood of torque across the rev range. Transmission upshifts are quick and seamless even in Sport mode with downshifts holding a bit longer. While the powertrain responded to our inputs graciously, the suspension reacted as it should [depending on what setting it was on]. However, our biggest complaint relates to steering system in the car which sometimes feels a bit abnormal even when simply driving straight down on a highway. It seemed that even minor corrections required more effort than usual and the steering was slow off-centre. Apart from this niggle, rest was fine and acceptable and we really enjoyed the adaptive cruise control system which uses long-range radar and ultrasonic sensors which enables the car to accelerate and brake automatically along in stop-and-go traffic. All one has to do is to ensure the car is pointed in the right direction. Also notable was at speeds above 60km/h, Audi’s active lane assist dives in to help the car steer back into the intended lane if it detects unintentional drifting. At Yas Marina, as always the northern loop was used for laps and convoy driving. While both variants were offered in turns, given the opportunity, we were able to slam the supercharged 3.0-litre variant

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and extract zero to 100km/h in less than six seconds [officially it’s 5.5secs]. Tackling the apex and fast or tight corners is a delight with the right chassis settings in this car and in some respects we wondered what a S6 would be like when it eventually comes! On the skid pad, steering felt very light and again short of communication. Depending on how you drive or control the car, the Quattro all-wheel-drive works well in controlling the car, but there can be significant understeer for the inexperienced. But the chassis is very

receptive. On the slalom course we found the tyres offering a lot of grip and there’s more substance to the steering during the higher speeds and transitions of the slalom. While the tyres offered a lot of confidence to throw the car around and AWD is a real boon for exiting at full throttle. We also note that for a track day slalom you need to choose a hard

38

suspension set-up otherwise the car can sometimes feel a bit bouncy and stray. The grand finale at the track and the last exercise for the day was a demonstration of the automatic valet parking system. While we recognize the fact that the new electromechanical power steering system delivers improved fuel economy and helps the A6 practically parallel park itself and will steer you back into your lane should you unintentionally drift out of it, but this comes with a price. Despite these achievements, somehow it just didn’t "feel" as good as a traditional hydraulic power steering system – maybe we need more

time to get accustomed to it. Overall, we can say the lighter chassis does help deliver sharper and more efficient performance.

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{coVer What’s in

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what’s out

Although a high proportion of the structure is shared with the A7, none of the major external panels are the same. The car’s design has evolved from its predecessor.

Styling

Almost 20 per cent of the bodywork is made of aluminium, including the strut towers in the engine bay, the crossmember behind the front and rear bumpers, and the engine bulkhead and rear crossmember. Aluminium also is used for the front mudguards, bonnet, boot and all the doors. Audi says this cuts 15 per cent from the body mass, compared with conventional steel.

Construction

Gain extra space in a lavishly equipped cabin with an array of optional bespoke appointments. Also on offer is B&O audio system [in top spec models]. New MMI system with handwriting recognizing technology, intuitive Wi-Fi connectivity

Interiors

The new car shares its drivetrains with the A7 above it and some models below it. The base version is a naturally aspirated 2.8-litre V6 while top end is the 3.0 TFSI V6 comes with a supercharger. This package comes with quattro drive and seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission.

Powertrain

Even with a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.26 in the base version, the car is very quiet. NVH is very good and benefits of weight reduction evident all around

Perfomance

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with ere equipped sold w ttro outgoing a6’s ost of the anent 4x4 qua M es, perm . the cylinder engin ix or eight nal equipment s f optio i v6 assortment o f efficient tsF nd a luxury a favour o ps the v8s in new a6 dro set-ups

For a new car that doesn’t look or drive a whole lot different than its predecessor, the 2012 Audi A6 sure is a whole lot more alluring. Technology is a big part of the draw, thanks to available features like a dedicated internet connection, touchpad interface and stop-and-go cruise control. The colour HUD display and in-dash night-vision display deserve special attention. With a contemporary style, futuristic technology and eager performance, the A6 is a solid competitor to Audi’s traditional German rivals.

Verdict

41

First driVe

New Jetta lands in region
Author Raj Warrior 42

after years of vacating crucial price bands, volkswagen brings in the new Jetta as a value package designed to take on specific competitors from outside its usual hunting grounds.

Volkswagen states that it is aiming for number three slot worldwide you wonder “aren’t they already there?’ That was one of the messages that the Volkswagen team were putting out on the occasion of the regional launch of the new Jetta. The Jetta is one of the models that best exemplifies the global nature of the VW brand. To the uninformed it is easiest to call it as a Golf with a boot, but that would be doing both the Jetta and the Golf an injustice. At the same time most European

he usual hunting grounds of the automotive majors have gone through a major churn in the past few years. Most of us grew up on the hierarchy of the automotive food chain where GM towered above everyone else. In the exciting couple of years leading up to the latest financial debacle Toyota managed to put paid to that hegemony, largely because of a spurt in sales, while being helped along by GM’s own inefficiencies. In the process, the order as people accepted has shifted and when

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buyers aren’t even aware that such a model exists. However look at the platform and you will see what’s so important about the business proposition. The Jetta has had a patchy history, with hits and misses in its iterations. It has at

times been called the Bora and Vento too, but then the Golf itself has also been called the Rabbit. A few years ago, when VW wanted a sedan that suited the Chinese market, it brought out a China specific model called the Lavida, which to all purposes was a variant of the Vento. Then around a year ago another market-specific model was launched in India, called the Vento. All said and done the Jetta is reported to have sold around 9.6-million units since it started, with much of the volume coming from the US. This iteration of the car makes it the sixth generation. Oddly enough, this time the Jetta is also being projected as an appropriate sedan for Europe while replacing the fifth generation car in our region too. However, there are subtle differences to the cars being sold here and in Europe. For instance the Jetta 6th gen gets a choice of latest technology TSI and FSI smaller engines along with TDI engines, while the car gets a pretty mainstream tried and tested 2.0-litre unit without most of the high tech add-ons. The new Jetta itself (atleast the car that comes to the region) is built in VW’s Mexico plant. This plant makes the cars that are sold in the bulk of the Americas and enjoys being part of the NAFTA and a dollar-priced sourcing. That makes the cars built here inherently lower priced than getting the car out of the European zone and with none of the image problems of cars built in India or China.

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Coming to the car itself, it looks like it can fight the battle it has been charged to win. The value segment of the sedan market in the region has been vacated by most players with European and Japanese brands facing costing issues coupled with an ongoing effort to move up the brand perception ladder. That has made the traditional C-segment market one that has mostly Korean manufactured products, with some in-roads being now made by clever solutions like those presented by Renault’s Fluence and Chevrolet’s Cruze. Of course both KIA and Hyundai are making the

most of the situation by projecting cars like the completely revamped Cerato and Elantra, thereby making it imperative that brands like VW need to take drastic measures if they want to retain volumes in the region. The car now definitely looks part of the new family with the treatment of the front fascia resembling the Golf 6 and the Scirocco to some extent. At 4.64 metres in length, the car is longer than ever and has also added a few notches on the width. In terms of styling the treatment of the lower airdam, notched waistline and the tail with large bumpers and

a shortened deck due to the swoosh of the rear windshield make the car look slightly tail heavy. Other than that it carries a bit of the profile made famous by the Passat CC. The interiors have also got a major brushup, with the functionality of the typical VW monochrome interior getting some nicely done chrome highlights, colour on the dials and a centre console that avoids looking drab because of some ingenious styling that creates a pocket surrounding the gearlever. There is also a most convenient tray in front of the gear shifter where you can stow your mobile

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in terms of being able to compete with Japanese and Korean cars in terms of larger leg room and headroom and a safety package that includes the full complement of airbags and chassis control programming that puts it ahead in many parameters. There are some touches which communicate the attempt to keep the car in a value band – like the exposed trunk lid swing hinges (one covered with plastic to encapsulate the light harness, while the other remains utilitarian in its barrenness. The Jetta starts at RO 7,350 in Oman, with phone. All quite well thought out. The car comes with a 2.0-litre 115bhp engine coupled to a six-speed automatic gearbox. The engines 170 Nm of torque peaks at 4,000 rpm and provides the gearbox with a good level of input throughout the range. Oddly enough, after a long time, we had the car’s geartrain shut off the engine when we selected manual mode and let the car stop at a signal. It just happened once but left us wondering if there was a tuning issue. First impressions of the car are largely positive. The Jetta is now better equipped

higher packages pushing upwards another 1,000 odd Rials. To be fair to VW, the price bracket is competitive, especially when you consider what a Civic or Corolla is priced at nowadays. However, one of our presenters was comparing competition with the likes of the Sunny and Cerato. The Jetta is hardly likely to appeal to those buyers. As for what the new Jetta will do for the volumes in this segment – we will have to wait and see the results. It isn’t quite the VW as we know it – a Golf is a lot more appealing and better for the brand overall.

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y ma l r ise ode u cr 0 m lso d an 201 8 a l on the tre v ti ra rom .7-li 1. e en ed f a 5 201 g th ang that for del o e igh ch is e n ag is m s k le u ab stly new pac t th rrior r ne mo big the ou y Raj Wa h ve r he s ap a’s ove t t ed to heck Photogr t yo rry , bu dd n c B Mallik to ca a r a n ea ets tom or Chanda y g au Auth

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f you have lived in the Middle East long enough, then it’s no secret that Toyota’s Land Cruiser models have served and weathered several generations with great aplomb. As a bulletproof model, it also commands an iconic status amongst die-hard 4x4 users in the region and despite the global economic downturn and its subsequent impact on the automotive industry worldwide [which also feverishly triggered the downsizing trends across segments], the current eighth generation SUV seems to defy all odds and continues business as usual. For 2011, it has also received a career boost. Most of us familiar with the body on frame Land Cruiser pedigree also are aware that despite the region’s unparallel loyalty with the Land Cruiser, there was one large gap between the models sold in the Middle East and US [the model’s largest two markets besides Australia]. Actually, all Land Cruisers sold in the US are powered by a 5.7-litre V8, also known as the 3UR-FE, which also propels the fullsized pick-up truck Tundra. The good news for the region is that now this power variant has been added to the line-up which bridges the demand gap and also opens up a new career dimension for the said model line-up, especially amongst rivals. From the exterior, the 5.7-litre V8-engined Land Cruiser carries its familar mass and powerful profile. The only differentiation externally and most obvious for the new variant is the badging – one for the engine credentials and the other relates to its 60th anniversary year. While most of the curves on the body are a modern mix of soft and wide, the car’s bonnet is flat and unmistakably linked to its past design heritage. The exterior sheetmetal design has some aggressive elements thrown in – such as the flared wheel arches, large compound headlamps and horizontal four-slotted grille. Besides the engine, the real kit that transforms and kind of redefines the performance and handling of the car is under the sheet metal. The first major change is in the way the suspension has been redesigned. Toyota has replaced the torsion-bar mechanism with a newly adopted coil-spring front suspension while the solid axle at the rear remains unchanged with its four-links and Panhard rod. But what is offered to whet the appetite of the drivers is Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System which according to our understanding is a system which technically disciplines anti-roll-bar rates without

sacrificing off-road performance. And how it does it is also as interesting as the system itself. What we know is that there’s a mechanically operated hydraulic linkage between the front and rear anti-roll bars that responds when the two axles articulate in opposite planes, disengaging the bars. As always, the car’s interior is as refined with highquality materials and excellent fit and finish. Theoretically, the cabin can accommodate eight adults, but the third row doesn’t get the generous treatment of the Sequoia because of the flat seat bottom and high floor. Access to the third row is simple via a one-touch tumble-forward second-row seat. Middle row occupants get generous head and shoulder room, along with slide and recline adjustments. With the rear seats upright, cargo space is 16cft [about the same as a midsize car]. Surprisingly, third-row seats do not fold down or can be removed as with some new SUVS or MPVs. Instead, they fold up against the sides of the cargo bay in the old fashioned way, because of the huge amount of fuel capacity builtin underfloor.

Driving impressions
What began as a routine test ended up much longer and detailed as we decided to delve further into its capabilities. This is one of Land Cruiser’s strong personality traits and qualities of being able to involve the driver and occupants all along. The command view for the driver ensures good visibility all around [a must for a large vehicle] and the reworked suspension seems extra confident, especially when it comes to control wallowing on the highways. Besides offering a luxurious and comfortable ride, it doesn’t mean that the car has lost its go anywhere or playful nature. We took extra measures to check out the suspension’s abilities offroad and were happy to note that it offers compliant articulation off-road also. The job done by suspension engineers is commendable and what impresses is how the precision and balance between the extreme ends of what a typical luxury SUV customer demands has been met competently. In fact, we pushed the vehicle off-road and were also able to perform some drifting without any fuss. Thanks to its composure and nine inches of ground clearance and not to forget the dual-range full-time allwheel drive, with its lockable Torsen centre differential
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and array of electronic assistants. And this then brings us to the powertrain package. While the extra large V8 displaces 5.7-litres, it pumps out 381hp at 5,600rpm and 401lb-ft of torque at 3,600rpm. Gear ratios in the six-speed automatic transmission are a bit different than the smaller sibling and feature a low, 3.33:1 first gear while the fifth and sixth gears act as overdrives. Actually, the top end ratios are designed for optimizing fuel economy. Despite the fuel economy drive [which usually compromises overall performance as seen in some recent cars], Land Cruiser devotees will not be disappointed as we are pretty sure that from a product vs mission objective perspective, executive chief engineer for the current Land Cruiser project, Hideki Watanabe, was fully aware about the job requirements of the bestselling SUV of any kind in the Middle East! We are happy to note that Watanabe has made it abundantly clear that his objectives were to maintain priority on essential four-wheel-drive functions while pursuing what he called an advanced and rugged design direction. The all-aluminium normally aspirated engine and six-speed transmission combo are perfectly mated and seem to be designed to impress both on and off court. It features an

array of Toyota high-tech bits such as variable valve timing, a variable-volume intake system and most importantly an electronic fly-bywire throttle. As a result, the engine is silky smooth and super quiet on the highway and it is only when you dig in for more power do you hear a muted yet mellifluous note from the engine bay. While the low revving engine offers generous torque, the car also feels tight and there’s no shortage of response to driver inputs. Thanks in part goes to the stout new frame with fully boxed sections and no fewer than eight cross members, which has helped in improving torsional rigidity. While engaging the car’s full-time fourwheel drive with low-range gearing enhances the car’s off-road capability, so does “Crawl Control,” a three-speed hill ascent and descent mode [in which the throttle and brake are electronically manipulated to maintain a constant, controllable speed over challenging terrain] helps the driver to concentrate on the obstacles ahead. Besides performance and handling, utility has been improved at every turn. For its class and price point, the kit offered is comprehensive. It’s really difficult to locate an area which might have been overlooked. Every convenience item known has been intelligently

integrated, beginning with ergonomically placed controls, heated second-row seats, and even a refrigerated centre console cooler box. And as with all of Toyota’s 2011 models, the Land Cruiser also has the company’s “Smart Stop,” a throttle override/brake enhancement system. The car’s chrome-accented Optitron style gauges are mounted in a deeply shaded instrument pod, flanked by a multiinformation display and shift-position indicator are easy to read. Overall, the colour tones and combinations used in the interior are a bit on the conservative side. Our tester had grey leather trim with slim silver accents and wood grain moldings. Four-zone climate control is standard, with a total of 28 air outlets and a standard high end JBL audio system with 14 strategically located speakers. Depending on trims, optional packages add navigation and a factory fitted DVD entertainment system. To think that a well-designed and kitted Toyota vehicle will lack safety features is next to impossible for the large SUV comes with an array of active and passive safety equipment, including airbags—including front-knee and three-row curtain—and Toyota’s optional pre-collision system, which tightens the front seatbelts when the various electronic sensors detect skidding or sudden hard braking.

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Verdict
As a large SUV, the 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser is a strong choice for seasoned punters in the segment. The segment has also diversified a bit and the spectrum offers and interesting array of models that depict capabilities or value for money. Despite the proliferation of a new generation of large crossover SUVs, the ubiquitous Land Cruiser still rules and as a package is still hard to beat.

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dodge’s all-new third-generation 2011 durango may be based on the unibody Jeep Grand cherokee platform, but it has a different story to tell. automan checks out the top order citadel model
Author:Chandan B Mallik Photography:Nabeel Ferzan and author

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dge plorer and do Ford ex nder , car’s like the o long ago dder frames u Not s h full la ed idsize suvs wit rivetrains swip ngo were m dura red by d l bodies, powe e their blunt ste ed now hat’s all chang t from pick-ups.

fter Chrysler rebounded from near bankruptcy in 2009, thanks to new owners Fiat, it wasted no time in delivering a slew of new and refreshed products across its three mainstream brands. First to roll out in the SUV line-up was the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which in turn set up the tone for rejuvenated Chrysler LLC. Now, that success story is followed by the arrival of the third generation all-new Durango and upgraded Dodge Charger sedan. The new Durango starts its career in an era where most automakers are looking at fuel and emissions efficiency, displacement or cylinder downsizing, enhanced performance, quality interiors and lots of functionality and quality space management. To do this and more, the 2011 Durango switches camps [from body-on-frame to unibody] very much like the other mainstream crossover SUVs. However, this doesn’t mean that the SUV has gone soft in its styling as a result. Despite a change in profile and overall design, it’s unmistakably a Dodge tough truck
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in the styling, with a big cross-hair grille and elegant detailing which makes it look more refined than the macho but bland old Durango. Meanwhile, chrome has been generously used to differentiate the entry and top end models along with some other features such as HID lamps. Although the rear end of the car is sloped more than the previous model, it is not as upright as the Honda Pilot. A cargo hatch is powered but does not open the glass separately. Rear wipe/wash and a small spoiler are standard on all variants. Technically, the new Durango rides on a stretched version of the co-developed Mercedes-Benz ML platform which is also used in the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and has nearly the same wheelbase (119.8in) and track (64in front and rear) as the old Durango. So it’s still not a midsize, but clever exterior dimensions ensure that the Durango falls right in the middle of the three-row mix of SUVs. While it’s no secret that the outgoing Durango’s cabin was a victim of the then

owner’s cost-cutting programme, this new one achieves quite a few highs and is clearly benchmarked against premium performance SUVs. While, there’s no groundbreaking design here, but the dashboard design is attractive and every surface we touch is supple and sufficiently upscale. Outward visibility is fairly good, thanks to a slimmed A-pillar. Front heated and ventilated seats are well contoured and cushioned and are covered in perforated high-grade Nappa leather in the Citadel model. Chrysler has incorporated an impressive array of practicality in the car which boasts of 28 different seating configurations, with up to 85 cubic feet of cargo and storage areas. With second- and third-row seats folded flat, the Durango can fit large six-foot objects with ease. Visibility over the third row is aided by an electrically operated dropdown headrests, which comes in handy when the third row is not in use. Third-row access is very good. A simple strap-pull folds and tilts up the second row seat, and the walk-through floor space to reach the third row is almost twice what a

Tahoe has for reaching the second row. There is more room back here than the legroom dimension implies. The cargo deck is 32ins off the ground and has one small deep bin on the left side and a broader one under the main floor. Cargo volume is 17cft behind the third row, 48 cft behind the second, and 84 cft behind the front seats. A simple lever operation drops either third-row seat flat, and with the right seat section folded flat in each row you can secure ten-foot-long objects inside. The Durango’s entertainment electronic gizmo kit on the centre console won’t overwhelm, but it’s a bit behind its arch rival, the 2011 Ford Explorer, which offers stateof-the-art MyFord Touchdriver connectivity technology. However, one doesn’t miss out on modern features such as iPod integration, a keyless ignition, adaptive cruise control, blindspot monitoring or a back-up camera with rear cross-traffic detection in the Durango. The car’s Durango power plant, in this case of the Citadel was the 5.7-litre Hemi V8,

mounted longitudinally in the engine bay with Chrysler’s 545RFE five-speed transmission. Hemi, power is rated at 360 hp, and 390 lbft at 4,250 rpm with up to 7,400 lb of trailer towing with rear wheel drive. While Multiple Cylinder Displacement is available in the Hemi and helps in fuel economy, the V8 powerd model also gets four-wheel drive with lowrange gearing for steeper inclines/descents, a neutral position for flat-towing. The suspension package seems to be comfort oriented and has a new short/long arm up front and isolated multi-link at the rear with a cradle arrangement for improved on-road handling and comfort. Aggressive shock and spring rates and large sway bars are part of the package to handle body roll in hard cornering situations. Driver gets electrohydraulic steering. Another thing we noted that unlike the older Durangos, the 2011 Durango uses five-lug wheels, which means a wider choice for those wishing to customize. Twenty-inch tyres and wheels combos are

available and spare wheel is tucked under the chassis. As a family oriented vehicle, there’s quite a bit of safety kit. Standard safety features include standard front seat-mounted side air bags and standard side-curtain air bags that cover passengers in all three rows, active head restraints and Electronic Stability Control.

Driving Impressions
In general, the front seats are very comfortable, supportive without being confining and able to handle long distances without feeling too firm. The eight way power settings are easy to use and best feature for the driver is the four-way power lumbar and a six-way power cushion for passenger side. The tilt/telescoping steering column accommodates a range of drivers and the power column links to the driver seat/mirror/ audio preset memory system. Unlike some new SUV’s, the foot well offers free space, so there is plenty of room for your left leg to relax.

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controls are split into three zones, or can be matched with the touch of one button; rear controls are operable if the driver approves by pressing a button. The Dodge Durango is easy to drive and delivers a comfortable, quiet ride empty or loaded. The way it responds to steering and braking inputs will please those who enjoy driving and go completely unnoticed by those who don’t. And most of the credit goes to its unibody architecture, which offers a near perfect weight distribution and hence more car like driving. For a large SUV, the steering actually provides actual road feel. Chassis and suspension are orderly, and encouraged us to explore corners at speeds, something we would never have attempted in the old Durango. But when one really wants to go fast in corners, the stability control [which can’t be disabled] systems politely reminds us that this is not a sports car and duly steps in and does its job. The Hemi-led variable valve powertrain

Engine revs and speed instruments house smaller fuel and coolant temperature gauges, with the EVIC electronic vehicle information center between. EVIC displays everything from fuel economy or oil temperature to how long the lights stay on when you park, operated via the left thumb-switches on the steering wheel. All controls, the door handles, door pockets and the cupholders are illuminated an icyblue, the gauges off-white. Most controls are straightforward. Climate

the durango interior is, by far, the highest quality yet seen in a chrysler product. it’s a huge step forward for a company that’s known for hard surfaces and uneven interior fit.
offers abundant torque and will happily cruise at triple-digit speeds up to the electronically limited maximum limit. While the Hemi offers 360hp, what makes the difference is the 50 per cent increase in torque and lower revving character that makes it feel more powerful. In fact, the 5-speed automatic to which it is mated to ensures that the engine’s offers peak performance without being thrifty, thanks to the seamless Eco drive mode where half of the cylinder bank is deactivated even at low city speeds. Even more impressive is its ride smoothness and minimum body roll, which we think in some respects is even more refined than the Grand Cherokee – thanks to the Dodge’s extra
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five inches in the wheelbase and the stiffer unibody structure [consisting of 52 per cent advanced, high-strength steels] which has reduced the chassis/body flex considerably when compared with the previous body-onframe design. Despite its boxy shape, aero profiling has ensured a drag coefficient of approximately Cd 0.35 and with better NVH management, the interior is exceptionally quiet on the move. Another significant change on the 2011 Dodge Durango is the use of an electric motor to drive the hydraulic power steering pump. Effort levels feel about right, but as on any heavy SUV, steering feel is absent. The steering ratio (19.1:1) and 3.67 turns lock-to-lock are

pretty close to the old Durango’s numbers.

Verdict
Now the near retirement phase is over at Chrysler and the redesigned 2011 Dodge Durango emerges as a viable and significantly improved 21st-century family seven seater SUV. There’s little doubt that the new Durango has been able to correct and improve on most of its predecessor’s misgivings. Unlike last time, this Durango will be competing with the Chevrolet Traverse, the eagerly anticipated 2011 Ford Explorer and to some extent with the Mazda CX-9. However, the Durango clearly stands apart as the solo SUV that offers a V8 option and bona fide towing capability.

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ou have seen the sleek lines pass you on the road. In the months since the Sportage hit the ground running with a new look and some phenomenal packaging, KIA has had a hard time – in fulfilling the demand for the crossover that is – and buyers are lapping up the new direction put in place in terms of product design, build quality, feature packaging and performance. The Sportage is now in its third generation and almost as a complete surprise the 2012 MY version of the car is in town to replace the 2011. We picked up a base version of the car to test what makes it such an appealing buy for many erstwhile sedan owners. At around the same time we had the honour of meeting KIA’s head of design Peter Schreyer who was in Oman on a private visit. The current Sportage moves the model upwards in its positioning in the crossover segment, helped in a great measure by the design improvements, not just over the previous generation but also when compared to competitors. The basis of this move was because of

a substantial shift in model preferences from buyers around the world. More than 50% of all SUV category sales in markets like Europe and China are of crossovers, while hardcore SUVs are largely favoured still in USA and the Middle East. The idea of taking a car-based platform and extending it as a crossover is not new. However the previous gen Sportage proved the concept for KIA and the new one has put the seal of excellence on how to do a good job of it. At 4.44 metres in length the car belies its growth. Visually the overhangs have got shortened, adding the wheels-in-the-corner attitude that Schreyer’s design brings with it. Yes the sports car like profile does a lot for it too. The interiors are the next best thing to happen to the car. From a neatly framed gearshift lever (encircled in a circular boss) and a forward biased centre console complete with climate control, MP3 CD player and provision of USB input slots for the iPod generation the high quality plastics seem like they are a match for

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Kia’s major overhaul of the sportage for My 2011 brought us a product that will be remembered as being at a crossroads of time and space – the right place at the right time. Now with the 2012 line-up available, we look at the car’s appeal again.
Author Raj Warrior Photographs Raj Warrior

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The program began with different proposals from the California and Frankfurt studios. Initially, we were tempted to do a kind of more rugged, off-road type of car but fairly quickly we decided to go in the direction of a more sleek, urban crossover

In comparison to the previous generation vehicle, the level of quality and attention to detail apparent in the new Sportage is in an entirely different sphere

The car looks sporty, kind of compact and has a good stance — but you still get a lot of space inside

Another thing that’s a nice detail is the line on the top of the windshield [the top edge of the screen isn’t a straight line, having higher, rounded edges], which you can see on both the Sportage and the Optima — it’s not straight, which I think is unique. I was really surprised we were able to do this

We tried to get away from this stereotype T-shape interior. We wanted to make it feel a little bit more sporty. We used a wide and high centre console approach. We have this central inlay element, which can be done in different colours and materials. It also means you don’t feel like you’re sitting in front of a vast expanse of plastic, the IP has sculpture and architecture

We were partly inspired by the Kue show car. If you look at the side profile of the new Sportage, you can see a strong resemblance to the Kue, underlined by the show car’s distinctive sheetmetal motif which again is mirrored in the Sportage

peter schreyer on sportage design
“We worked mainly with the design team here in Frankfurt and with our counterparts in California, so we’re talking about fifty designers in total. We started by analysing what the current Sportage means to the brand, what it means to Kia customers and what our customers expect.” According to Schreyer, there were two divergent trains of thought – one idea was to pursue a tougher and more offroadish theme, while the other was to create an agile and urban-friendly style. Either way, the designs had to maintain the advantages of the four-wheel drive – a usefully high ground clearance, an elevated seating position and the feeling of being in command. “I encouraged our designers to go in both directions because there is always the chance that a design element from one could be used on the other,” says Schreyer. “Then we moved onto sketches and quarter scale models. We then picked maybe three of the most promising ones and created fullsized models. This decision-making process takes three to four months, part of the entire eighteen-month design process. Such a quick process makes Kia very flexible,” explains Schreyer, “because time-wise we are close to market and can react very quickly.” The key design element of new Sportage’s purposeful stance is the relationship between its high shoulders and narrow glasshouse, explains Schreyer. “We’ve created a car with a sportscar-like ratio between sheetmetal and glass. The side-windows are very narrow which gives you an almost rally-car feeling.” Follow the shoulder and roof lines and they meet at the striking reverse-angled C-pillar. “The size, the shape and the proportion of the C-pillar on any car is absolutely crucial to its appearance,” says Schreyer. “And as you can see on our new Sportage, it determines the entire look and feel of the car.” Kia’s design language is based around architecture. “It’s the way the greenhouse sits on the body, the proportion, the graphic when viewed from the side, the wheel arch size, the face, the stance, the overhangs, and the down-the-road look and feel of the car. Everything should work together.” explains Schreyer. “When it comes to encapsulating Kia design I always refer back to the simplicity of the straight line. It means that we are trying to keep our design simple… and, in design, simple is the hardest thing to create.” The arrival of the new Sportage marks another design milestone for Schreyer and Kia’s design teams – another step closer to his goal. “I think the new Sportage is fresh and bold and couldn’t be mistaken for anything but a Kia.” says Schreyer. “I want to give Kia global appeal, and I want that appeal to be about design above all else.”

We showed the Kue Concept at Detroit in 2007, which was never originally considered to be the Sportage. But we looked at it and made a model that was kind of a resemblance of the Kue, and it’s that theme which made it to production

Sportage sketches showing strong shoulder line carried from the Kue concept, and clean rear section

want to give Kia global appeal, and I want that appeal to be about design above all else – the new Sportage is a major step towards achieving that goal” says Peter Schreyer, Kia’s Chief Design Officer. Schreyer, who joined Kia in 2006, intends to transform the public perception of Kia right around the world. “The new Sportage is fresh and bold and could not be mistaken for anything other than a Kia,” says Schreyer. “It embodies Kia’s newfound visual dynamism by successfully taking the key features of an off-road vehicle – the raised ground clearance, the commanding driving position and heightened sense of security – and enveloping them in a sleek and urban-friendly design with global appeal. With its athletic and muscular design the Sportage fits its name perfectly.” Previously seen exclusively as a mid-sized offroader, the new Sportage has taken a dramatic turn in design direction and has broadened its appeal to a more urban and design-conscious market. Longer, lower and wider than the model it replaces, the new Sportage is immediately identifiable as a Kia by its ‘tiger’ face – incorporating Schreyer’s striking signature grille design – that links all new models from the Korean firm. Look at the new Sportage and its visual links with the Kue show car – unveiled at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show – are hard to ignore. “It’s crucial that we draw real design inspiration from our concept and showcars, like the Kue, and inject that motivation into our production cars – The new Sportage is clear proof of that,” says Schreyer. “If you look at the side profile of the new Sportage, you can see a strong resemblance to the Kue, underlined by the show car’s distinctive sheetmetal motif which again is mirrored in the Sportage.” While some manufacturers simply tease the car-buying public with futuristic concepts, the look and feel of Kia’s forward-looking show cars can easily be found in its subsequent production vehicles. “We started work on the Sportage about three years ago,” says Schreyer.

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any Volkswagen’s interior, while the strategically placed chrome and garnish push it closer to an Audi for feel. One thing that is apparent for the Sportage is that the car is fighting well above its weight-range in terms of pushing the brand ahead – and doing a good job of it. Any blind assessment of the car would have placed it a few thousand Rials above, until you realise that its a KIA. Perhaps the only parts of the car that still say that with any conviction are the presence of entry-level versions with only one airbag! One wonders if people really don’t care about their safety to that degree? And we find that odd because even the 2.0-litre version gets cruise control and a keyless entry system along with steering audio remote. The higher version is powered by a 2.4-litre unit and gets the panoramic sunroof. The difference between the two engines is only 11 horsepower (164 bhp for the 2.0litre as opposed to the 175hp for the 2.4-litre, but the larger unit isn’t missed on most city roads. The six-speed auto gearbox more than makes up for the sometimes stressful conditions of a loaded engine by quickly downshifting, even two cogs when necessary. The torque at 194Nm is good enough to propel the rather light crossover over all surfaces.

The Sportage gets an Active Torque on-demand system to drive its four wheels. Dymax is an electronically controlled single high ratio all-wheel drive system from Magna Powertrain. It continuously monitors driving conditions and anticipates when all-wheel drive will be needed, whereas most systems only react to changing conditions. Dymax normally delivers 100% of engine torque to the front wheels. But the torque can be redistributed up to a maximum of 60:40 front-to-rear. For off-road driving, owners can manually select lock mode, which gives a 50:50 torque split at speeds of up to 40kmph. Off-road, the car’s light weight and ability to stay on top of the sand helps maximise the benefits of the Dymax system. You can run it through quite soft sand if you know what you are doing, especially in terms of keeping the momentum and avoiding braking. The engine revs quite nicely all the way to the 6,000rpm band and the gearbox does the remaining. But that really doesn’t matter to the bulk of the sedan owners switching loyalty to the crossover. The Sportage is sporty enough on the road and long drives can be quite pleasant when ensconced in the new KIA cabin.

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Ford has managed a resurgence on the back of product revamp. the new Fusion is one of these models taking on established competition in the c-d segment.
Author Raj Warrior Photographs Raj Warrior 65

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he brand that has best typified the large American car to us, Ford, used to be also known for its trucks and assorted large variants. Not so much for anything smaller than a Crown Victoria unless you chose to bring up the Mustang or jumped over the Atlantic to highlight some of the signature models produced by Ford Europe. Now, things are getting curiouser and curiouser (to paraphrase a fantasy figure). For Ford has started producing models that address the needs of the new buyer in America – one who doesn’t want a large engine or tonnes of metal to haul around. And the best witness to the new reality is the popularity of the 2010 Ford Fusion, a car that was built to offer competition to the C-D segment’s most popular models in the US including the Camry and Accord. And what better way to get competitive than to start out with a good platform – in this case the entire move of introducing the Fusion in the US was as a car to fit the Mondeo’s profile. In Europe, the Mondeo is one of the largest selling sedans – in the America’s the platform derived from Mazda’s GG platform, Ford’s CD3 platform was used to build the Fusion. After a thorough revamp of the first generation Fusion, which in most other cases would have qualified the model to be called the second generation – the Fusion entered the 2010 MY with styling, features and comfort that made it a thoroughly American competitor the the other CD sedans. In the bargain the Mondeo was withdrawn from the US market and we have seen the implications of a costly Euro do the same in showrooms in the Middle East (or at least in Oman) where model rationalisation has meant that the model range starts from the 1.6-litre Focus and then goes on to the 2.5-litre Fusion and then on to the Taurus. In Oman the Fusion is available in two variants – the S and SE, with prices from RO 7,895 to RO 8,295. The Fusion always enjoyed a good platform – what it suffered from was a particular blandness. With the 2010 MY evolution, things have changed significantly. The lowcost nature of the platform evolution still allowed for a redesign of the outer skin. The visual distinction is apparent right from the new look Ford grille with the three large bars. There is a distinct effort to provide variance across the fascia – the headlights have also got a shape, a trapezoidal one that matches in with the grille. The car gets projector lamps, additionally the headlight assembly is now horizontally laid out as opposed to the stacked

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the Fusion’s second generation builds on the car’s virtues with
layout of the previous car. Other major changes include a busy lower airdam, with the design signature carried around the car with a three-dimensional effect given to the rear deck by the addition of a notch as well as redesigned taillights. In the process the 2010 and later models manage to look more aggressive than before. This is communicated by the relatively squat height of 1445mm on a length of 4841mm on a wheelbase of 2728mm. The large 17” inch wheels boost that impression. Less aggressive, yet far more modern are the interiors. The steering wheel regains the simplicity of the traditional Ford layout, with all the cruise control and audio buttons coming onto the inner boss. The S variant gets only the former. However, the speedo console is common with a large three circle layout in vignetted blue and white to mark the points. The light controls sit on the console, while the wiper, turn signal and dipper controls are on a stalk on the left of the steering wheel, with no stalk on the right. If you were used to the separate stalks that old Ford’s came with, the stalk is positioned exactly where the top stalk of the old assembly was – one wonders why it isn’t taken closer to the 270-degree position for ease of access. The Fusion also gets a more pronounced treatment of the dashboard that removes most of the horizontal elements in favour of

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improved styling and packaging making it more competitive

a vertically aligned layout. The SE version of the car gets a 10-speaker Sony sound system along with power operated driver’s seat to boost the already formidable offering in terms of a 6-airbag complement, Advance Trac with Stability control and Traction Control. The steering wheel also is claimed to be improved because of a new electronic power assist. At low speeds it does help a lot, especially in the parking lot. However at speeds, the steering doesn’t load up, remains soft and has a dead centre. While the Fusion does get Ford’s BLIS (blind spot warning) in the US, here the car makes do with a blind spot mirror – not so much because it is needed. The blind spot can be addressed by adjusting the mirrors correctly – but the small extra convex corners need some getting used to for drivers not used to it. The long wheelbase of the car adds some useful legroom to the rear seats as well as shortened overhangs. The strength of the car as a family car is furthered by the roominess of the cabin and the excellent NVH that isolates practically all noise. This is a feature that is increasingly becoming a part of the Ford Lineup. The Fusion is powered by a 4-cylinder 2.5-litre Duratec engine that generates 175 horsepower and a torque of 233Nm, making it more than enough to handle day to day activities in the Fusion. However, even with the six-speed gearbox, there is no hint of the sportiness company officials claim. The overwhelming impression is of a competent commuter sedan, quiet, responsive and composed. Push the accelerator in and the gearbox does respond – but the soft suspension, overly assisted steering and over anticipative chassis electronics ensure that the car feels completely different from the Mondeo for instance. On straight roads the Fusion’s composure is its strength. The gearbox responds quickly and almost imperceptibly and at most stretches you have to rein back the engine to stay in speed limits. However when you hit the curves two things happen – the body roll comes creeping in and the gearbox doesn’t move fast enough allowing the engine to get loaded. Of course we can overcome that with the neat little manual override button on the top of the gear lever. That is an acquired skill since we normally expect to do something a lot more overt. All in all the Fusion does a good job of competing with the run of the mill C-D segment sedans. It offers size, comfort, power and a compelling package – at a price that stays competitive in these times of a rising Yen and Euro.

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Aston Martin has teamed up with Italian design house Zagato one again to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the DB4 GT Zagato with an interesting V12 Vantage-based concept endurance racer
Author Chandan B Mallik

Zagato is back!

s always, the Villa D’Este concours in Italy was the place to be last month if you’re a diehard classic car aficionado. This year, besides the usual array of exhibited and paraded beauties, was a celebration of sorts for Gaydon, UK-based Aston Martin. Aston Martin
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unveiled its stunning new endurance racer concept which it has co-designed with Milan-based design house Zagato, on the shores of Lake Como as tribute to the badge which is celebrating the 50th anniversary year of the iconic DB4GT Zagato in 2011.

g in ak s e w Br ne

Aston Martin’s new V12 Zagato endurance race car concept which completed the gruelling Nürburgring 24 hour race last weekend – just weeks after making its premiere at the Villa D’Este Concours last month – will make its British debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this month.

A s t o n Martin’s relationship with Zagato goes back to 1961 when the duo worked on the first DB4GT Zagato. Between 1986 and 2003, several other models based on V8 Vantage, and DB7 were produced [see box below]. For 2011, the collaboration has been renewed once again and the fruit of the effort is ready to race endurance racer based on the mechanicals of the current V12 Vantage. However, Aston has its

own in-house design set-up and rationale behind the joint venture has more to do with intensity than anything else. “Fifty years ago, Italian design houses were widely seen as leading the way with new designs but now and supported by our independency, Aston Martin has its own in-house design ability so this new venture with Zagato is more collaborative than it perhaps would have been in the past,” said Dr Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin. Considering the time period from sketch to actual conceptualization, it has taken less than a year. In 2010, the

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initial meetings between Aston Martin and Zagato were spent on discussing sketches incorporating the design DNA of both companies. Chris Porritt, responsible for the engineering of the limited production One77 has also worked on the project with the initial design team. Obviously, the skills and knowledge gained from specialised projects has helped bring the unique design of the V12 Zagato to reality. As per Zagato’s synonymous design signature, the car features a new handcrafted body made in aluminium. Using the craftsmanship and skill of nearly 100 years of heritage in the metal shaping, every panel formed used an English wheel and traditionally crafted body bucks. Each front wing alone comprises seven separate pieces of aluminium, combined and then hand finished to give one flowing form. Another iconic Zagato design cue is the double bubble roof created in this case from five individual pieces. Designed for the focused driver, the V12 Zagato has been honed with pure driving enjoyment in mind. The V12 Zagato combines Aston Martin’s most dynamic bonded aluminium platform with the power of the 6.0-litre V12 engine producing 510bhp and 570Nm of torque and mated to a sixspeed automated manual gearbox with auto shift manual/select shift manual (ASM/SSM) electric hydraulic control system. Why was the V12 Vantage chosen as the basis of the project? One of the key reasons in favour was that a V12 Zagato has proven its capabilities on the race track as early as 2009 with a class win in its debut race at the 24 hour race at Nürburgring in close to production specification. Actually, this car has gone on to form the basis of the new Aston Martin GT3 race car unveiled last month. Specification Aston Martin V12 Zagato Endurance Race Car Body Two door, two seat coupe body Bonded aluminium structure Bespoke steel roll cage. Hand crafted Aluminium body. Engine All alloy quad overhead cam 48 valve 5935cc V12 Compression ratio 10.9:1 Front mid-mounted engine, rear wheel drive. Transmission Rear mid-mounted, six-speed automated manual gearbox with auto shift manual/ select shift manual (ASM/SSM) electric hydraulic control system Magnesium alloy torque tube with carbon fibre propeller shaft Twin Plate competition clutch. Limited slip differential. Suspension All round independent double wishbone with fully adjustable Multimatic DSSV dampers. Brakes [Front] Ventilated floating grooved discs with 6 piston calipers [Rear] Ventilated floating grooved discs with 4 piston calipers Fuel System 120-litre endurance racing fuel tank

Automan’s take

By far, the V12 Zagato is an elegant yet brutal design which reflects the great balance between race performance and pure Aston Martin style. The original DB4GT Zagato was a true icon, powerful and graceful; the new design is a true representation of the spirit of DB4GT Zagato.

Blast from the past

The DB4GT Zagato project marked the first time when Aston and Turin-based design house Zagato worked together. The DB4GT Zagato was a lightweight car and only 19 were built. The car had its racing debut in 1961 at the famous Goodwood’s Easter meeting where it finished third with Stirling Moss at the wheel. This was followed in 1986 by the V8 Vantage Zagato and V8 Zagato Volante and in 2003 with the DB7 Zagato and American-only DB-AR1 roadster. The first DB4GT Zagato shown to the public in late 1960 spent much of its life as a racing car after launch. Later perhaps the two most famous DB4GT Zagatos, registered ‘1 VEV’ and ‘2 VEV’ were raced with success by such names as Jim Clark and Roy Salvadori. The fascinating story of these cars and the nature of high performance and low weight which drove the Zagato projects gave the inspiration for the first two V12 Zagatos to be created as endurance race cars.
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MINI gets rous ventu ad

MW Group has released the first official photos and some details of MINI’s firstever two-seater -- the all-new 2012 MINI Coupé. The new arrival when launched later in the year will come in several spice varieties: base, ‘S’ and a range topping John Cooper Works [JCW] tuned version. While retaining the classic and contemporary profile, the standout feature of this car is its
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“helmet roof” design. Aerodynamics are also a priority in this car and hence there are spoilers on the roof and in the rear. The latter spoiler is designed to deploy automatically at speeds over 80km/h. Despite its two-seat setup, there is sufficient stowage space behind the front seats and a wide-opening tailgate. The new model will be offered with three four-cylinder petrol engines and one diesel.

The MINI Cooper Coupé’s naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine will deliver 121bhp and 160Nm of torque. The MINI Cooper S Coupé gets a 1.6-litre turbo unit offering 181bhp and 240 Nm of torque. The range-topping JCW (John Cooper Works) versions will also include overboost functions. This tuned engine will offer an output of 207bhp and 260 Nm of peak torque. The overboost demand function will

MINI introduces new Coupé sport model with four variants including a range-topping JCW Coupé
Author Chandan B Mallik

add 20Nm of torque for quicker acceleration. The diesel on offer is the MINI Cooper SD Coupé has a higher displacement. The 2.0litre diesel unit is good for an output of 141bhp and 305Nm of torque. The coupe is claimed to have the best acceleration ever for a MINI --to the tune of a 6.1secs 0-to-96 km/h time with top speeds reaching around 240km/h. The coupe goes

on sale in Q3 and MINI will use the interim period to build up its case. MINI is quite keen to lure more male buyers to the brand as suggested by the three teaser commercials which will go on air in September. Shot like a movie trailer the campaign highlights the MINI Coupé’s slogan “Another Day. Another Adventure”.

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Button takes last-gasp win in Canadian epic
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enson Button made sensational amends to McLaren, having inadvertently taken team mate Lewis Hamilton out of a chaotic Canadian Grand Prix on the eighth lap, by snatching victory from Sebastian Vettel halfway round the final lap. The disjointed race began behind the safety car due to heavy rain, started to dry, then got much worse as the rain returned and refused to abate. Things went bad for McLaren by the second corner as Hamilton tapped Mark Webber into a spin and attracted the attention of the stewards yet again. But that was nothing compared to the bad news that lay ahead for McLaren… Vettel led easily from the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, with the McLarens chasing the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Hamilton passed Button but dropped behind him on the sixth lap as an overtaking move on Schumacher failed to come off at the hairpin. Going across the start/finish line at the end of lap seven Hamilton pulled out to pass Button, but as the latter moved to the left they made contact and Hamilton hit the pit wall. His car sustained a puncture and after trying to limp home he was instructed by his crew to pull off. Out came the safety car again. Afterwards Button said that he simply couldn’t see anything in his mirrors, because

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of the spray. Then came more bad news for McLaren, as Button got a drive-through penalty for going too fast behind the original safety car. He served that, then dived in for intermediate Pirellis and was for a while the fastest man on the track. Alonso did likewise, but they were just moving up the order when the rain came back. Before long the race was red flagged as conditions became impossible. At the end of lap 24 the order was: Vettel, the amazing Kamui Kobayashi who had yet to pit his Sauber, Massa, who had stopped, the Renaults of Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov, Paul di Resta in the Force India, Webber and Alonso, Pedro de la Rosa and Button. That was how they restarted two hours and five minutes later when the rain finally eased. Vettel soon pulled away again as Kobayashi fought a valiant rear-guard action against Massa and a suddenly revitalised Schumacher. The German moved up to second place on the 51st lap as Kobayashi slid momentarily off the track and held Massa wide as he recovered. The Brazilian sustained front-wing damage which dropped him back after another pit stop, but now the men to watch were Webber and, incredibly, Button, who on intermediate Pirellis and then slicks had started to charge back from last place after having to make an unscheduled stop after a collision on the 37th lap with Alonso. The Spaniard spun and the safety car came out yet again as the Ferrari was beached on a chicane kerb. The stewards investigated the incident after the race and deemed no action necessary. Just as things were brewing nicely another accident, this time when Nick Heidfeld tagged the back of Kobayashi and then had the front wing of his Renault fold back under the car, resulted in a fifth safety car deployment on the 56th lap. The race resumed for its final sector on the 61st lap, now with DRS enabled by the FIA. Schumacher came under intense pressure from Webber and Button. The Englishman soon disposed of them both and set off after Vettel, slashing down a 3.1s advantage until the German made a crucial mistake on the final lap as he slid wide on a wet patch and surrendered the lead. Button’s redemption was complete. Behind them, Webber passed Schumacher to take third despite a baulky downshift and intermittent KERS performance, while Petrov and a recovering Massa overtook a fading Kobayashi. Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi made it a good day for Toro Rosso by taking eighth and 10th places, sandwiching Rubens Barrichello’s Williams. Rosberg had been well in the hunt here, but slipped back in the closing stages. Pedro de la Rosa’s return to F1 racing earned him 12th, while Tonio Luzzi beat the Virgins fair and square as HRT won the ‘new teams’ section after a super drive. He was followed by the Virgins of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Timo Glock, and team mate Narain Karthikeyan who was penalised from 14th to 17th for cutting a chicane. Jarno Trulli was Team Lotus’s sole survivor in 16th after Heikki Kovalainen’s T127 broke a driveshaft. Force India had a bad day too; Paul di Resta was up in sixth place early on, survived some adventures before serving a drive-through for contact with Rosberg, and then crashed near the end and was classified 18th. Adrian Sutil got a similar penalty for overtaking under the safety car, and was also delayed by a puncture after also hitting Rosberg. Besides Hamilton, Kovalainen, Alonso and Heidfeld, Pastor Maldonado failed to finish. A remarkable race sees Vettel extend his leading world championship points tally to 161 as Hamilton drops to fourth on 85, behind Button on 101 and Webber on 94. Alonso remains fifth on 69. In the constructors’ stakes, Red Bull have 255 points to McLaren’s 186 and Ferrari’s 101.

de la rosa stands in For Perez in canada
ormula One veteran Pedro de la Rosa replaced Sergio Perez at Sauber for the Canadian Grand Prix on safety grounds, after the Mexican rookie felt unwell following opening practice. Perez crashed heavily in Monaco qualifying and was unable to participate in the Monte Carlo race. He spent two nights in hospital after suffering concussion and a bruised thigh, but safely passed the FIA medical to compete in Montreal this weekend. “This development hit us by surprise, because Sergio underwent thorough medical checks, first in the hospital in Monaco, then in a hospital in Zurich, and finally, the FIA doctors gave him the green light this Thursday,” confirmed team boss Peter Sauber. “Nobody could have foreseen that he would feel unwell. Maybe we are being overly cautious, but when it’s about the health of our drivers we take zero risks.”

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lotus announce williams wind-tunnel deal

Lotus have announced an expansion of their wind-tunnel operations after signing a deal to use one of the two tunnels run by Williams. The development means the team will run a twotunnel programme from September, with the Aerolab facility in Italy working in conjunction with the one at Williams’ Grove site. “There are a number of reasons why I

am delighted that we have signed this deal,” explained Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes. “From a practical perspective there are the obvious benefits of increasing our wind tunnel activity and using a state of the art facility in the UK, and I am sure that will immediately help Marianne Hinson (Head of Aerodynamics and CFD) and her team to work even more

effectively in one of the key areas of the ongoing development of our team.” Lotus are currently building a dedicated wind-tunnel facility at their Hingham base and once their own facility is up and running, all activity will be transferred to the team’s site.

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Vettel victorious in red-flagged Monaco thriller

ed Bull’s Sebastian Vettel rode his luck for all it was worth in Monaco. He got the pole, then had it inadvertently safeguarded after Sergio Perez’s accident. Then in the race, just as he was under massive pressure on worn tyres from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Jenson Button, a nail-biting race was brought to a temporary halt when
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Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari crashed in heavy traffic in the Swimming Pool, taking out Renault’s Vitaly Petrov in the process. The incident happened as the leaders were threading their way through the backmarkers, but the race was soon suspended as it became apparent that the Russian had momentarily been knocked unconscious and needed

medical assistance. He complained of pain in his left ankle at the accident scene, but further examination and a full body scan in the Princess Grace Hospital confirmed that there was no swelling or broken bones and he is expected back in the paddock within a few hours. When the race resumed for its final six laps,

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at 16.04, everyone had fitted the freshest tyres they could muster and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing had been repaired after it had been savaged in the Alguersuari incident. Vettel, back on much-needed fresh rubber, won easily from Alonso and Button. A frustrating event had started well, with Vettel leading confidently from Button and leadership lap to the team’s tally - after a snafu in the Red Bull pits when Vettel’s front right tyre wasn’t ready. Vettel was now on Pirelli’s soft compound, not the super soft, and Button opened a commanding lead that at times was as much as 14s. But then the flow of the race was interrupted for the first time when Massa, having just been passed by Hamilton for 10th place, crashed in the tunnel after getting off line. At the same time Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes had ground to a halt at Rascasse. The safety car was deployed for the first time as the resultant debris was cleared up. Button still led Vettel and Alonso when the racing resumed on Lap 39, but even on supersoft rubber the McLaren driver could not pass the Red Bull and on Lap 48 Button dived in for a third stop, switching to softs. He dropped to third but stayed ahead of a gaggle of cars at that stage led by Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi who had both done very long opening stints and then been cleverly pitted by their teams as the safety car had come out. Now it was Vettel leading again, chased by Alonso, whose Ferrari was now also on soft tyres. Could they both possibly go the distance without a further stop? As the race progressed, Alonso decimated Vettel’s one-time five-second lead, as Button came storming in on them. It was building up to a fascinating climax, with Alonso admitting later that he was prepared to try a do-or-die effort when the time came, when the incident happened on Lap 68 that blew the race. Under pressure from an overtaking Pastor Maldonado in the Williams, Sutil went wide at Tabac and hit the wall in the Swimming Pool with his right rear wheel. As the Force India then ran wide in the second section of the Pool, a lapped Alguersuari ran over the kerbs and launched himself into the back of Hamilton, who’d just passed Maldonado, smashing the McLaren’s rear wing and inadvertently then forcing an innocent Petrov into the wall with a heavy impact. As the decision was taken to suspend the race, everyone stopped on, but didn’t cross, the start/finish line at the end of the 72nd lap. It’s permissible to work on the cars, so everyone went for the freshest tyres they had. After the restart behind the safety car at 16.04, Vettel was able to open the gap he needed over Alonso as Button fell back, so the top three was all sealed long before the 78th and final lap.

bahrain 2011 almost reinstated, then out
he Bahrain race originally due to take place on March 13, was postponed due to civil unrest in the island state. A decision on whether to reinstate it had been expected at the start of May, but the FIA extended the deadline at the request of Bahraini authorities. FIA’s World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) announced that the 2011 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix would take place on October 30. The 2011 Formula 1 Grand Prix of India, which had been scheduled for that date, would now become the season finale combined with the FIA Annual General Assembly and PrizeGiving Gala. The decision meant that the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship would now comprise an unprecedented 20 rounds, with India having to wait to stage its inaugural Grand Prix at the all new Buddh International Circuit. Then after a few days of increasing dissent from various teams, Bernie Ecclestone came out with a firm sign of not supporting the idea. Whether it was just that or sheer pragmatism Bahrain Grand Prix organisers decided to withdraw from staging a round of the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship. It followed the week of rumblings. “Whilst Bahrain would have been delighted to see the Grand Prix progress on October 30th in-line with the World Motor Sport Council’s decision, it has been made clear that this fixture cannot progress and we fully respect that decision,” Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) chairman Zayed R Alzayani said in a statement. “Bahrain has always sought to play a positive role in the continued development of Formula One, from pioneering F1 racing in the Middle East, to helping other countries in facilitating their own races in new territories, as well as providing our own unique experience and universal welcome to Grand Prix supporters. “Bahrain has absolutely no desire to see a race which would further extend the calendar season and detract from the enjoyment of F1 for either drivers, teams or supporters. We want our role in Formula One to continue to be as positive and constructive as it has always been, therefore, in the best interest of the sport, we will not pursue the rescheduling of a race this season.”
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Alonso. Then Button pitted on lap 15, Vettel on 16 and Alonso on 17. All three were able to resume long before Ferrari’s Felipe Massa led the pursuit, because for a long time he’d been held up by Nico Rosberg’s fast-starting Mercedes. Now Button was the leader - adding McLaren’s 10,000th Formula One race

Lightning Ogier wins in Greece
Sebastien Ogier made the most of running behind Sebastien Loeb over the final five stages of the Acropolis Rally to claim his third victory in the world championship this season.

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gier began day three of the punishing gravel event 2.2s behind his Citroen team-mate Loeb, having dropped time on Saturday’s final stage due to a combination of hanging dust clouds and his eagerness to gain a more advantageous road position for the final-day battle. He appeared to have benefitted from being able to drive over the cleaner lines created by Loeb through the loose surface gravel when he moved into the lead by 0.1s after Sunday’s opening stage. Loeb fought back with a faster time through the next run, which gave the seven-time world champion top spot once more by the same amount heading to the mid-morning service in Loutraki. But with Loeb’s road position proving more of a hindrance on the repeated stages 16 and 17, the flying Ogier was able to build a lead of 10.5s with just the Power Stage left to run. “It was a difficult start on Friday but I managed to find a good rhythm, especially yesterday when we pushed hard,” said the 27year-old Frenchman, who was co-driven in his works Citroen DS3 WRC by countryman Julien Ingrassia. “I am very happy and it’s perfect to get this result.” Ogier had courted controversy - and incurred his team-mate’s frustration by dropping behind Loeb on Saturday’s night stage. He explained: “I slowed down a bit but even before that I was not fast in the stage. There was so much dust I didn’t want to push and take the risk.”

As well as claiming 25 points for winning overall, Ogier bagged three bonus points for going fastest on the event-closing Power Stage by a scant margin of 0.009s over Loeb, whose second place in the intense Greek heat was his 100th podium finish in the WRC. Citroen’s one-two finish means it now holds a 55-point lead over Ford in the manufacturers’ championship. “It has been a great battle for sure but it was a bit frustrating not to win because I think we were the fastest on the rally,” said Loeb. “We cleaned the road two times and that was a big disadvantage. We could not do any better.” Mikko Hirvonen, in the lead factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC, closed to within 2.6s of Loeb starting the Power Stage but had to settle for third. The result means Loeb now heads the Finnish driver, who was fastest on stage 16, by 17 points in the drivers’ rankings heading to Hirvonen’s home event next month. Jari-Matti Latvala was quickest on four of Sunday’s five stages in the second works Ford, but delays experienced earlier in the event due to mechanical failures restricted the Finn to ninth in the final classification, one place behind Super 2000 World Rally Championship winner and countryman Juho Hanninen. Petter Solberg, who held a commanding lead after day one, had to settle for fourth in his privateer Citroen. “I was happy with my performance but I can’t do more than this,” said the Norwegian. “I pushed hard and tried

everything but a private team is a private team and it’s difficult.” Solberg’s older brother Henning scored a season-best fifth in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta, one place ahead of team-mate Matthew Wilson, who was slowed on the final stage by a recurrence of the misfire that delayed him on Saturday’s stages. Briton Wilson has now scored on six of the seven rounds run so far in 2011, however. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the WRC for the first time since the Jordan Rally in midApril and finished seventh in his Ice 1 Racing Citroen. “There was not much we could win today so we’ve been taking it pretty easy and driving it home,” said the 2007 Formula One world champion at the finish. Dennis Kuipers claimed the final drivers’ championship point for the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team. Afterwards, the Fiestadriving Dutchman said: “I’m really happy because I never thought a result like this could happen. I felt really good and there were no big problems or big mistakes.” Kuipers’ father Rene finished 17th on his first start in a Fiesta RS WRC. Munchi’s Fiesta driver Federico Villagra was forced out by the power problems that had delayed him on day two. A mechanical failure led to Daniel Oliveira retiring his Brazil World Rally Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC on Sunday’s opening test.

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Last-gasp win for Loeb in Argentina thriller
Sebastien Loeb cancelled out an overnight deficit of 47.7s to Citroen teammate Sebastien Ogier to win Rally Argentina for the sixth time in a tense finish shown live on television throughout the world.
gier appeared to be in control with four stages left to run only to roll on the day’s first stage. He was able to complete the run with the fifth fastest time but his lead had been trimmed to 21.5s. Of greater significance, however, was the damage he’d inflicted on his Citroen DS3 WRC, which included the loss of power steering. With three stages before the finish and no service, Ogier was unable to prevent further time loss. Despite starting the event-closing Power Stage 3.3s up on Loeb, he slipped to third in the overall classification, 7.3s behind winner Loeb and 4.9s down on Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen, who also moved ahead on the 3.90-kilometre test. “This is really incredible because I never thought this would be possible after my penalty on Friday,” said Loeb in reference to the 60-second penalty he received for entering a regroup ahead of schedule. “It’s been a difficult rally and, okay, my rivals have had problems, but it’s a very good feeling now.” Hirvonen started the final morning in second position in his Fiesta RS WRC but slipped behind Loeb on stage 16. However, he was able to recapture the runner-up spot when he moved ahead of Ogier on the final stage. “Ending the weekend with a podium is a good result but it’s not been a great event because I’ve struggled for the speed,” said Hirvonen, who is now 13 points adrift of Loeb in the title battle. Ogier had been on course for his third victory of 2011 at the start of the day only to roll after taking a deep cut through a corner on Sunday’s opening test. The dejected Frenchman said his car had been “impossible to drive” afterwards, adding: “I tried to do what I could but it was so hard. It was a stupid mistake for sure.”

block comFortable again in the wrc

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Petter Solberg made up for the disappointment of his power steering failure on Saturday afternoon, which cost him a shot at victory, by claiming his first Power Stage win of the season to finish in fourth overall in his privateer DS3 WRC and earn three bonus points. Mads Ostberg claimed fifth place in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta on his Rally Argentina debut. “I’m very happy because my aim was to be sixth but now I am fifth and I’ve got good experience for the next time I come here,” said the Norwegian. Federico Villagra was the top Argentine driver in sixth overall despite brake troubles hampering his Munchi’s Fiesta over the closing stages. Jari-Matti Latvala’s recovery from his retirement on day two netted seventh place and crucial manufacturers’ championship points for Ford. The Finn had trailed Matthew Wilson at the start of the day but when Wilson’s Fiesta suffered an engine glitch after ingesting too much water in the water splash on stage 17, Latvala was able to move ahead. The highlight of Briton Wilson’s rally occurred on the Power Stage, which he completed with the fifth-fastest time. Production Car World Rally Championship aces Hayden Paddon and Patrik Flodin completed the top 10 in ninth and 10th places respectively. Monster World Rally Team star Ken Block returned to action under SupeRally to finish 18th although it proved an eventful final morning for the American, whose fifth fastest time on stage 17 was his best in the WRC so far. “Near the end of stage 16 I got a late [pace note] call, got beached and got a frontright puncture,” said Block, who also suffered a half-spin on the Power Stage.

K

en Block has said that “getting comfortable” in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC again took away some of the frustration he felt after he failed to complete the entire competitive route on Rally Argentina last week. Block was making his return to the world championship following his shakedown crash on Vodafone Rally de Portugal at the end of March. He relied on SupeRally restart regulations to finish 18th overall after a driveshaft failure felled his Monster World Rally Team entry on Saturday morning. “It was a tough rally and mechanical issues are never fun to go through but that’s part of motorsport,” said the American. “But I was able to get comfortable in the car again [after Portugal], which was important for me.” Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino had been in contention for a top 10 finish in Argentina before things went awry on Saturday morning. “It was really disappointing after I’d made it through the car-breaking stuff of Friday,” said Block. “I was actually doing fairly decent stage times compared to Federico [Villagra], a good local driver. But it wasn’t meant to be and I’m gutted I didn’t get to do Saturday afternoon’s stages.” While Block failed to land drivers’ championship points in South America, by reaching the finish in Villa Carlos Paz on Sunday afternoon he scored manufacturers’ championship points for his Monster team for the third time this season. The Americanbacked squad holds ninth in the makes’ classification.

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motor sPorts -

Repsol Honda Team reigns at Silverstone

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Stoner cruises to Catalunya GP win

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{ChiCane}

Can we

control our fate?
after a rather taxing day around the Ides of June, I found myself wondering about what had happened to me? But of course you need to experience the day to relate. It started with me being called on airport drop duty by a friend. Now most of you know how it is – a phone call asking “Can you drop/pick me up at so and so time?” I have been guilty more often than not of being the person asking for the favour. I’ve done it in India (telling myself that the bad taxi service warranted it) and I’ve done it elsewhere because it is safer to be picked up in a strange country rather than hazard the cost of finding yourself stranded. But here in Muscat, it is more a social phenomenon. Of course we see our friends off and get treated to the same pleasure in turn. So with a car packed to the roofrails with luggage and party I found myself trying to find a car space to drop them off at Muscat Departure. With no slot available since some people understand drop off zone as “parking”, my party jumped off while I was still in the driveway and unloaded all the luggage in around a minute. My path was in turn blocked ahead by three vehicles but that didn’t stop one worthy white haired passenger from screaming at me to drive into the car ahead so that his car could squeeze into a half-slot that had just opened up. As I pressed the button to put my window down I could see myself responding with anger and some choice remarks. You’ve seen that happen before – Road Rage at its best. But as the window came down I surprised myself by smiling at him and telling him “cool down, sir”. I had listened to the small voice that was telling me “ahem, is this how you want to start the day?” The whole day, I felt pleased that I had done something along the lines of ‘paying it forward’. No I am not a peaceful soul. Anyone who knows me can endorse that the anger is just below the surface. But now I felt a different man. How would I know that this new-found patience would be tested again the same day? Switch to Madinat Qaboos service road and a rage filled driver of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Nope, he wasn’t happy to be tailing me and didn’t like my signalling him to overtake. The poor sod wanted to play chicken with me by swerving into my fender as he overtook and then slowing down and actually reversing into my bonnet, only to stop inches away and then turn off onto a side road. Again, I was laughing while I told my wife that today was my day to keep cool. Five minutes later another impolite driver stole the parking that I was waiting for – with my indicators on. To the refrain of “cool, cool” from my wife, I waited found another parking and then went across to the guy and told him in the nicest way that it was time he learnt some manners. What a day? Managed to navigate it without killing anybody, no punch-ups and nothing bruised except the misguided ego. Is that what spiritual teachers through the millennia have been teaching? And do the really calm people do this day-in and day-out? Somehow I can’t picture myself following this path all the time, but there you have it – your instant cure for road rage. As a beginning can we switch back to the manners that struck me on arrival in Muscat almost a decade ago? It was here that I first realised that drivers looked each other in the eyes as they passed at slow speed or at junctions – and smiled. Everything else came from that – giving way, not honking and not stealing a parking that was staked out. Let’s take it a day at a time – I can’t ask for more than that. Perhaps, if we can stop getting stressed on the roads our day will be much better at work and at home.

Raj Warrior is editor of Automan and has been in the thick of the Automotive journalism field from the past 15 years. Want to comment or have your say? Email at raj@alroya.net. Identify yourself or your message will be trashed and your id blocked

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